SCOTLAND VS ENGLAND
TOMORROW – 5.00PM BBC1
Considering France already appear to have the Six Nations wrapped up – as their odds of 1/50 with Boylesports suggest – and that the Triple Crown is a possibility only for Ireland, there’s still a lot to play for when England visit Murrayfield tomorrow.
The Calcutta Cup is the tangible reward but much more important are bragging rights and, for Scotland, avoidance of the wooden spoon. England will be chasing their first win in Edinburgh since 2004 while Andy Robinson, now overseeing the Scots, would dearly love to get one over on his former England teammate and opposite number Martin Johnson.
Robinson has clearly made progress with the Scots and has gone some way in restoring his reputation after a largely unsuccessful tenure in charge of England. He even led the team to victory over Australia for the first time in 27 years. Although the hosts are yet to earn a point in this year’s tournament, they can consider themselves unlucky to come up against a final five minutes of inspired Welsh rugby which turned a 10 point lead to defeat in that match and also to face a much improved Italian side a fortnight ago.
England looked better against Ireland, although ultimately their efforts did not lead to gains and breaks. We have to assume that Johnson is as frustrated as the rest of the country after he described the “marathon” selection meeting and he has sought to address this by selecting Joe Worsley to improve the side’s chances at the breakdown. Scotland lack the defence of Ireland in the back line or the power of the Italians up front and the visitors have a good chance to win more ball tomorrow. It seems right to side with England with a five-point handicap at evens with Boylesports.
Given that England’s forwards should find it easier tomorrow and Robinson’s request that referee Marius Jonkers watches England’s backs for blockers, we should look to the pack for tries. James Haskell scored two against Wales and the Stade Français flanker would like nothing more than a touchdown to help forget a week of club v country squabbles. He can be backed for the first try at 25/1 with Paddy Power.
Murrayfield’s impassioned support would love to see a high-scoring thriller tomorrow but there is appeal in selling total points at 34 with Sporting Index. Only once in England’s last five visits have points topped 40 here and even France in their pomp only managed 18 points last month.
England to win on handicap (-5) at EVS with Boylesports
Sell points at 34 with Sporting Index
James Haskell to score first try at 25/1 with Paddy Power
HULL VS ARSENAL
TOMORROW – 5.30PM ESPN
ON PAPER the Big Four all have easy games this weekend and it would be a surprise if they don’t all take maximum points. Arsenal travel up to Hull on a high having thrashed Porto 5-0 in midweek and although they are likely to be missing Cesc Fabregas they should still take all the beating. They have won their last four league games and have scored 13 in their last five games across all competitions.
In early February the Tigers had a tremendous couple of results, drawing at home against Chelsea and then beating Man City the following weekend. However, they have since lost three away games in a row and were hammered at Everton on Sunday. Phil Brown has an almighty task on his hands if his team are to avoid relegation for a second season in a row and they have taken only one point from six home games against the Big Four since 2008/09. All five of those defeats were by the HT / FT double result and four were by at least a two-goal margin, while they have also conceded eight goals in their last two league games.
The Gunners should probably have beaten Burnley more comfortably than the 3-1 scoreline at the Emirates last weekend, but they are looking increasingly like potential title winners. Their next four games are against Hull, West Ham, Birmingham and Wolves and Arsene Wenger would hope to take 12 points from those. Arsenal have won eight of their last 11 trips to bottom-six sides, with six of those victories coming by the HT / FT margin and six by two or more goals.
Hull fans will never forget their victory at the Emirates last season, but they aren’t likely to be in such high spirits tomorrow night. A comfortable win for Arsenal looks the most likely option so I’ll be backing them in the HT / FT market, as well as buying their supremacy at 1.6 with Sporting Index.
Arsenal HT / FT at 23/20 on Betdaq
Buy Arsenal supremacy at 1.6 with Sporting Index