The final couple of international rugby test matches took place on Saturday 31 August before teams turned their focus to the upcoming World Cup in Japan which takes place between 20 September and 2 November.
The finishing touches have been put to the squads and there has been no lack of talking points during the build-up. Coaches have selected some players fans and pundits believe should never be near the competition, while leaving out others that were said to be nailed down for a seat on that plane. The work of a coach at one of the leading international sides in world rugby is far from an easy one but these men live and die by their decisions.
If they get it right, they will be remembered as heroes with their legacy secured. If they make a hash of it then they will pay the ultimate price, usually losing their job and have their name scrubbed from the record books.
Bookmakers Stick their Necks on the Line
Bookmakers have also put the finishing touches to their outright betting markets and having learned the lessons taught by the summer series, the money men now stick their necks on the line and make their feelings known. You can have your say on the outright winner of the World Cup or play one of the many specials markets available. These include teams to win each individual group and nations to reach the final.
There are also dozens of markets available on each and every match from the World Cup and you can follow your investments live on ITV. Get your stake money down on the winner of the game or bet on total tries, first try scorer, handicap, highest scoring half, half time/full time and plenty more besides. There’s something for everyone in the pre-match betting.
Those preferring to play their cards close to their chest can take advantage of the in-play betting that’s available with most major online gambling firms, including Betfair, bet365 and 10bet. Traders keep many of the original markets alive throughout the course of the match, allowing you to get involved at any stage. A financial interest is as exciting in the last few minutes of play as it was before the start.
Saturday Gave us Two Games of Note
Two games of note were played on Saturday afternoon as home nations battled to boost confidence with a warm-up win on the final day of August. It was seen as the last chance for some players to stake a claim for a place in the starting 15. They had already secured their involvement in the World Cup but wanted to ensure they didn’t spend their trip watching it from the bench. From a coaches’ point of view, they wanted to sign off with a win that would get the squad believing but it was also important to use the full depth of their squad.
This gave them a chance to get one final look at all the tools at their disposal, but it was also important in avoiding injuries. A knock to key players at this stage could prove the difference between getting through the group stages and going home early for some teams. This ensured these games were competitive and made great viewing for armchair fans. it also meant punters risking their cash were getting a run for their money in the games.
The number one ranked team in the world, Wales, have been busy this summer and they reached the top of the tree with a win over England in Cardiff. They will now head to Japan as the highest-ranked side on the planet and that’s something some fans never thought they’d see. Wales are the team to beat and hold the number one slot, but will they win the World Cup? We’ll find out in due course and getting the answer to that question will prove to be thrilling viewing.
Wales Welcome Ireland to Town
Wales hosted Ireland on Saturday at the Principality Stadium in a match that was played out from 2.30pm live on Channel Four. The hosts went in looking to rack up another home win over a potential World Cup rival and they also wanted to flex their muscles and show why they were the best in the business. For Ireland, what better way to sharpen up for Japan than by beating the top-ranked side in the sport? It had all the ingredients of a cracker and fans making their way along to the venue or watching the live coverage on TV knew they were in for a cracker.
Surprisingly, major bookmakers were keen to side with an away win and that came as a bit of a surprise to punters given just how exciting this Welsh side is. Every firm had Ireland as odds-on shots with no more than Betfair’s 5/6 up for grabs. Value hunters were intrigued by the 6/5 – market best price at Unibet – on a local cheer and the draw was 28/1.
Scotland Expected to Beat Georgia
Later that evening we had Scotland travel to Georgia on the back of what was a jaw-dropping win over France last weekend. The same side was hammered in Nice by Les Bleus and many expected them to lose heavily again, but this match didn’t follow the script. Scotland is a different side at Murrayfield when roared on by a passionate, patriotic and vocal support.
The stands had their work cut out for them in cheering a team low on self-belief following that mauling in France and some feared the worst when the visitors scored early. That seemed to focus Scotland, however, and they rolled up their sleeves and fought back to win. The crowd now believe, the players believe, and the coaching staff look much more settled than they were the previous week. Could Scotland repeat the feat of their last efforts at the World Cup and do something special? It’s certainly possible.
The Scotland match kicked off at 5.00pm at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi. Scotland were hot favourites heading into that one with the pre-match betting offering the away win at 2/9 with 888Sport, against the 9/2 (Ladbrokes) for Georgia and 40/1 trading on the draw.
Wales v Ireland
Wales: Amos; Lane, S Williams, Watkin, S Evans; J Evans, A Davies; Carre, Elias, Lee, Beard, B Davies, Shingler, J Davies Navidi (c).
Ireland: Addison; Conway, Farrell, Aki, Stockdale; Carty, Marmion; Kilcoyne, Scannell, John Ryan, Henderson, James Ryan; Beirne, O’Mahony (c), Conan.
The bookies proved, once again, to be a shrewd bunch as they correctly predicted Ireland would secure an away win over an under-strength Welsh side. The scoreline at the end of the match read Wales 17-22 Ireland and that reflected what was an enjoyable and hard-fought contest enjoyed by both sets of fans and players. It was played out without the edge we’ve become used to in recent weeks, but it did prove to be a good watch.
Stockdale scored two tries and that was backed up by another from Penalty. Carty scored one conversion and missed another two, but the same man added a penalty to help push his nation to victory. Wales refused to go down without a fight and had Lane and Patchell to thank for their tries. The latter kicked two conversions and Evans chipped in with a penalty to ensure the game went right down to the wire. Although neither side really deserved to lose what was a fabulous advert for the sport, we were left with a deserving victor.
Ireland will now turn their attentions to playing Scotland in the opening match of the World Cup and they were picked by the bookmakers to continue their winning ways and get off to the best possible start. The money men say they’ll beat Scotland with a bit to spare and get their campaign off to the best possible start. Wales return to the training ground where they will pick out the positives of Saturday and work on the negatives, and there were a few, not least of all the final score. They will have no problems dusting themselves down and boarding the flight to Japan believing they have what it takes to go all the way in Japan. One thing’s for sure, despite their weekend defeat, it will be a bold punter who bets against them at the World Cup this autumn.
Georgia v Scotland
Georgia: Matiashvili; Modebadze, Dzneladze, Kacharava, Todua; Abzhandadze, Lobzhanidze; Nariashvili, Mamukashvili, Gigashvili; Sutiashvili, Mikautadze; Giorgadze, Saghinadze, Gorgadze.
Scotland: Kinghorn; Graham, Hutchinson, Johnson, Maitland; Russell, Laidlaw; Dell, McInally (capt), Nel; Toolis, Gilchrist; Barclay, Watson, M Fagerson.
Later that day and Scotland got the result that was expected of them when visiting Georgia. It was another match that proved it’s never worth straying too far from the betting odds as Scotland were hot favourites and live up to the job. This match was more to do with getting fitness in the ranks and confidence in the dressing room, showing the players they are capable of winning on the road.
Doing the business at Murrayfield with the backing of a sold-out arena is one thing but repeating those efforts when across enemy lines is quite another and getting things right on that front will be key to going far in the World Cup. A big win was expected, and a big win was delivered. The dark blues oozed class on-route to a 44-10 win and the score could, and probably should, have been more. Georgia gave a decent account of themselves thanks to a try scored by Asieshvili before Abzhandadze converted. There was also a penalty added to the tally by Matiashvili.
That would have been a match for many sides on their level, but Scotland showed they are a division or two above Georgia and in doing so they got the kind of performance and win the coaching staff had been hoping for during preparations. Toolis crossed the line for a try, as did Hutchinson (twice), Graham and Cummings. Of those five tries, all five were converted and that would’ve been music to the ears of both fans and the coaching staff. Laidlaw scored three conversions, Russell got one and Hastings was responsible for the other. Laidlaw capped a superb individual performance with three penalties scored. He’s in great shape and his team will rely on that boot to win tight games when things get serious in Japan.
Georgia returns the favour when coming to Scotland on Friday 6 September in a match that will be shown live on TV from 7.30pm and is expected to be another full house. That’ll be their final match before taking on Ireland at the World Cup on 22 September, opening what’s sure to be a competitive Pool A. Regardless of who wins that, both nations will believe they can qualify.