The Rugby World Cup begins in Japan on Friday 20 September with the opening match pairing the host nation with Russia. You can follow that glamour tie from 11.45am GMT live on ITV then settle in for what promises to be a thrilling tournament.
The home nations get going on Sunday. Scotland and Ireland face off from 8.45am in a match that should tell us a lot about what to expect from both teams, England is expected to roll over Tonga later that day and Wales opens its account against Georgia on Monday. The final will be played and a champion crowned on 2 November.
Bet on the Rugby World Cup
You can bet game by game at the World Cup, with dozens of markets available, both pre-match and in-play, bringing you even closer to the action. You can also look ahead to the outright winner of the trophy or nations to top their individual groups thanks to the ante-post betting. This is a value for money bet that keeps you involved for longer. The earlier you get your stake money down, the better price available.
The Rugby World Cup takes the place of the usual autumn test match series which has now been brought forward to the summer. This year it’ll be used as preparation and warm-up for Japan, with coaches using the games to get a good look at their players. They picked their final World Cup squads early in the campaign and have been experimenting with tactics, rotating the player pool and deciding which men deserve a starting slot when it all gets serious.
From the players’ point of view, they have used the summer series to gain fitness, gel with their teammates and catch the eye of the coaching staff. Everyone wants a seat on the plane to Japan and everyone wants to play a part and get the chance to become a hero for their nation. That means the test matches have been more competitive than usual and it has been great to watch from an armchair fan’s point of view and thrilling from the position of a sports bettor.
One Last Chance to Shine
There is one final round of World Cup warm-up matches due to be played this weekend and, with both scheduled to be shown live on TV, we’re in for another sporting treat. You can watch the action unfold live as an interested bystander or get involved, ramping up your enjoyment of the occasion with a bet on the outcome of each fixture. Live international rugby is a joy, but it can’t quite compare to bagging a profit on the result and sticking it to your bookmaker of choice.
To help you achieve that we have brought in our team of sports betting experts to run the rule over Saturday’s two fixtures. We look at form, figures and team news before returning with our views on where the smart money goes. Our talented and experienced tipsters have also researched the betting and flag up which major firms are offering value on the most popular predictions. Getting the most for your stake money is important as it could prove the difference between making a profit and losing your balance.
Wales v Ireland
Wales welcome Ireland to the Principality Stadium for a match that will be shown live on Channel 4 from 2.30pm. 80 minutes of enjoyable, competitive international rugby awaits and this will be a real treat for followers of sport on terrestrial TV. Neither side is expected to win the World Cup in Japan, as is reflected in their outright prices, but both will fancy their chances of going close and causing a few upsets along the way. They’ll also rate their chances of winning this test match on Saturday and with neither backing down, we’re all set for a cracker.
These sides have blown hot and cold during their preparations. Wales were impressive when beating England at this very venue two weeks ago, battling to a 13-6 scoreline. Not only did they get the win and stick the boot into one of their great rivals, but it was also a result that will go down in history. Beating England at the Principality Stadium on Saturday 17 August saw Wales crowned the best team in the world, and they will head to Japan as the number one ranked international rugby side on the planet. That’s a result of hard work, belief and a run of victories in all competitions.
They are in a unique position – surely one fans thought they’d never see – but it now makes them a target, both in the warm-up matches and at the World Cup. Making their way to the top step was an enjoyable challenge but, now there, they must protect it and defend against every opponent who wants to make a name for themselves by beating the best team on the planet. It’s a new challenge and we’ll find out if this Welsh team have what it takes. The dream of that number one slot kept them going, now can they hold on to it?
Locals Enjoyed a Rest
The locals have enjoyed a bit of time off to allow the players to recover from what has been a gruelling schedule this year. The dressing room would’ve reflected on that win over England, picked out the positives, spoke about the negatives and congratulated themselves for making it to the top of the tree. Then they would have turned their attentions to this match and the challenges that lie ahead in Japan. The hosts will surely rotate the squad and give a few players a bit more of a rest. They’ll be eager to grab the win, however, and ensure they go to Japan on the back of a run of victories. That’s easier said than done against a talented Irish side who also want to prove themselves before boarding the plane.
The current betting attached to this match has Wales as favourites and those wanting to invest their cash on the home win will find them available at 8/11 – best price with bet365. Ireland has been chalked up at 6/4 and the standout price for the visitors can be had at Ladbrokes. The draw wouldn’t come as a massive surprise at this stage, priced as big as 25/1. Ireland with a five points handicap at 4/6 looks worth a spot in your accumulators.
Georgia v Scotland
Scotland is back on the road when travelling to Georgia, a team they are expected to beat with a bit to spare. If this game goes as expected it will be a physical match that will boost the fitness and confidence of the away dressing room, but they shouldn’t go close to losing, especially If they play anything like we seen from them last week.
Scotland was hammered in Nice by France a fortnight ago and more of the same was expected when Les Bleus came to Murrayfield last Saturday. The Scots are always a better team with the backing of their patriotic support but very few had them picked to turn things around against one of the best teams in the world over the course of a week. That’s exactly what they did do, firing a message of intent to their World Cup rivals. Scotland isn’t expected to do anything of any note in Japan, but we have seen many times in the past that it’s foolish to write them off.
France took an early lead when Penaud scored one of his two tries on the day, added to by a couple of conversations from the boot of Ramos, but the home team in Edinburgh weren’t to be denied on their own patch. Not only did they rally back to win the match, but the players also showed the coaching staff just what they are made of, demonstrating their stomach for a fight. Maitland and Harris scored tries, Laidlaw converting both to level up the scores, but it was the latter who made the difference when kicking a penalty to get his teammates over the line, sparking wild celebrations in the stands. We have been reminded a few times during the summer test series that rugby isn’t just a game of free-scoring ties. Kickers you can rely on often make the difference at the top level and we’re sure that will be the case again at the World Cup, especially in the latter stages when contests become a more tactical affair.
Speaking to the press at the conclusion of that great win over France at Murrayfield last Saturday and head coach Gregor Townsend credited the way his team found a way to win despite facing a lot of adversity. He made 14 changes to the team who were mauled in Nice and got the desired effect. The coach now has a selection headache to deal with, but Scotland doesn’t possess the biggest squad in the sport and that will help keep things competitive. Everyone now wants to play and, although we’ll see further changes here, a big performance from every man on the field is guaranteed. Anything less against a side of Georgia’s standing won’t be tolerated.
Scotland Squad Already Hit by Injury
Scotland is expected to roll over the top of their opponents, but the climate will be warm and playing conditions far from perfect at this time of year. The coaches must use their selection wisely and they must also go to the bench when needed, ensuring they claim the right result but don’t endanger the players with injury. The Scots have already lost lock Sam Skinner to a hamstring injury and that was a real blow for all concerned. They don’t have the strength in depth needed to contend with too many knocks at this stage. Will the threat of injury and missing out on the World Cup feature in the players’ minds on Saturday?
The betting is about right for this match and is as many would have expected when turning their attentions to the tie. Scotland is favourites, of course, and backers will find 4/11 trading at just about every major firm, including Betfair. There’s enough in that price to merit a play as a super single for big stakes, but it’s more likely the visitors will appear in accumulators and weekend multiples. Georgia is 12/5 for the upset with 888sport and a draw has been scored out at 33/1.
There’s more joy to be had when playing the specials markets attached to this fixture and we find the handicap betting to be interesting. If Scotland does win, as expected, how many points will they finish ahead of their opponents? It’s unlikely to be a battering at this late stage of proceedings. Scotland -7 points – or a converted try – is 10/11 at Ladbrokes and that makes sense. This should be a competitive encounter, but the visitors are capable of scoring a few tries while working to tighten up their own defence. Georgia with a seven points start is even money at bet365.