Ireland will find extra motivation for victory

Tomorrow – 5.00pm BBC One

CAN this game avoid being an anti-climax to the final round of Six Nations games? Ireland at Twickenham on St. Patrick’s Day suggests that the atmosphere will rival that 150 miles away along the M4, in Cardiff. Let’s hope the match is a fitting finale to one of the most entertaining Championships in recent memory.

As for the result, I must admit to being undecided about the most likely winner. England and Ireland are, in my view, very closely matched and I could see the game going either way. Therefore, I have to recommend siding with Ireland with a three-point start at 10/11 with Coral.

The Red Rose performed fantastically well to beat France in Paris last week but I’d be mindful of getting carried away about what is still a young and inexperienced side.

Consider which players from these two teams are most likely to make the Lions squad and it becomes clear that Ireland are superior in almost every position. Owen Farrell has settled into the number 10 jersey well, but he’s not as good as Johnny Sexton. Tom Croft played a blinder against France, but Stephen Ferris would probably edge into the starting line-up ahead of him. Ireland winger Tommy Bowe has scored five tries in this year’s tournament to Chris Ashton’s zero.

It is Ireland fullback Rob Kearney, however, who could have the biggest impact on the game. He is back to his pre-knee injury best and his ability to deal with anything that is kicked his way means England will be less able to rely on Farrell’s boot to win territory, as they have to some degree in all of their previous fixtures.

There is also Ireland’s recent record over England. The Boys in Green have won seven of the last eight Six Nations head-to-heads, including on their last visit to Twickenham in 2010, when they won 20-16. Backing up Ferris’s barbed comments in the build up to this match, it seems as though Ireland do find an extra motivation against the English.

A feature of Ireland’s campaign has been how quickly they have come out of the blocks and I’m tempted by Ireland to win the race to 10 points, available at 11/10 with Bet Butler. Against Wales, Declan Kidney’s men were 10-5 up at the break and led for most of the match, while they were 10-3 up against France after just 25 minutes.


Ireland (+3) at 10/11 with Coral

Ireland first to score 10pts at 11/10 with Bet Butler

Tomorrow – 2.45pm BBC One

HOME advantage is one thing, but I doubt whether many sportsmen will be lucky enough to experience the kind of support that the Welsh players will enjoy tomorrow. The noise emanating from the Millennium Stadium will be deafening as Wales bid to secure a third Grand Slam in eight years by beating France.

Coral make the hosts 2/5 favourites for the match and the smallest handicap margin available is four points. Backing Wales, with all the motivation in the world, to beat France, who have little to play for but pride, by more than that margin is a fantastic bet and I advise getting on at 10/11 with Bet Butler.

Not many would begrudge Wales the Slam based on performances throughout the tournament. They have attacked with purpose, been gutsy and have looked collectively fitter and stronger than any other side. Welshmen Mike Phillips, Dan Lydiate, Alex Cuthbert and captain Sam Warburton have all made the shortlist for the player of the tournament and you could make a strong case for each of them, while winger George North and fullback and place kicker Leigh Halfpenny should probably be on there too.

Despite harbouring hopes of themselves achieving the Grand Slam, France have disappointed. They have been guilty of ‘being France’ – at times their play has been sublime, but failure to produce their best for entire matches, as opposed to just 15-minute periods, cost them results against Ireland and England.

If England managed to get three tries on the board at the Stade de France last week, Wales are capable of at least that many in Cardif. Both sides have averaged 23 points apiece in their four Six Nations matches this year. Buy points at 41 with Sporting Index.


Wales (-4) at 10/11 with Bet Butler

Buy points at 41 with Sporting Index

Saturday – 5.30pm ESPN

AFTER three league defeats in a row, tomorrow’s FA Cup quarter-final against Bolton is going to be a test of Tottenham’s bottle.

A win against Wanderers would provide a welcome morale boost – not to mention a fourth visit to Wembley in the last five years – and Spurs are a best priced 1/3 with Paddy Power to achieve it.

Current results indicate it may not be as straightforward a task as those odds suggest, but Harry Redknapp’s men, the outright tournament favourites, at 5/2 with Coral, should be able to use the game to put their wobbly spell behind them.

Bolton have a decent record in this fixture at the Reebok, but the trip to N17 has been a thankless task for them in recent years. Each of the last five visits have ended in defeat and they’ve mustered only one goal at White Hart Lane in that period.

Spurs ran riot when winning here in December. The score was 3-0 but could easily have been higher. Although they don’t come into this game in anything like the same form, Bolton are having a terrible season.

Half of the four away goals they’ve scored in 2012 came at the New Den against Millwall in the previous round; the remaining two were in a victory at Goodison Park two-and-a-half months ago, and they have fired blanks in their last four Premier League road matches.

Spurs deserved more in recent weeks and have plenty of firepower to gun down their visitors.

Backing Spurs to win to nil is advised at 6/5 with Paddy Power and 2-0 is the fancy in the correct score market at 6/1 with Coral. On that basis, Sporting Index’s spread of 3.0-3.2 gives us the opportunity to sell total goals.


Spurs to win to nil at 6/5 with Paddy Power

Spurs to win 2-0 at 6/1 with Coral

Sell total goals at 3.0 with Sporting Index