Back All Blacks for tries not trophies and England to reach last four


WILL hosts New Zealand finally manage to shake off their underachiever status at the 2011 World Cup? An entire nation of devoted rugby union fans expect them to go all the way and lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time since the inaugural tournament in 1987 and it’s a view shared by the bookies. The All Blacks are a best-priced 4/6 outright and, for me, that’s too short for a side that will be under more pressure than they have ever experienced in the quadrennial contest.

On paper, Richie McCaw’s men are the best team in the tournament and have been for the last few years. But this is a familiar scenario – exactly the same compliment could have been paid to the class of 2007. While I wouldn’t take the 11/8 for New Zealand not to win the World Cup there are better value bets based on the All Blacks’ performance than backing them to win at odds-on.

Not having won the World Cup for 24 years has not stopped the side being by far the most prolific in terms of tries scored. In their 30 World Cup matches since 1987, the All Blacks have crossed the try line no fewer than 189 times, 62 more than Australia, their closest rivals.

Forty-six tries were scored in their four pool matches in 2003. That’s an impressive tally, and while some may argue that South Africa and Australia perhaps have easier groups this year, neither is able to boast quite as many talented and creative players as the All Blacks. Get on New Zealand to be the top try-scoring team at 11/10 with Boylesports, which is offering to refund bets on top try-scoring team or top tournament try-scorer (on any Tri or Six Nations team) if New Zealand fail to make the final.

England have an outside chance despite an apparent lack of creativity in Martin Johnson’s squad selection and a frustratingly inconsistent build-up. The current crop is undoubtedly more talented than the side that reached the final four years ago in France. With standout players like Courtney Lawes and Chris Ashton among them, topping Pool B should be fairly straightforward – as long as they can perform closer to the level which saw them beat Australia last November than that in defeat to Wales last month.

Taking top spot in the group is likely to set up a quarter final with France – a side that England have beaten in the last two World Cup semi-finals and in three of the last four meetings – so back the Red Rose to reach the semi-finals at 5/4 with Paddy Power. A spread market that particularly appeals is a buy of yellow cards at 38 with Sporting Index. Thirty sin-bins dished out in 2003 and 35 in 2007 shows an upward trend, while referees have been told to take a harder stance on anything that illegally slows play. Inferior sides have long taken to questionable tactics in the face of superior opposition and should referees take heed of advice from the top, we can expect a profit.