Late England charge can dent strong Irish record

Tomorrow - 4.00pm BBC1

Martin Johnson leapt to the defence of his usually dependable fly-half, as much of the criticism for England’s stale performance against Italy a fortnight ago was levelled at Jonny Wilkinson. Some are surprised that Johnno has decided to stick with the same starting line-up to face Ireland tomorrow but he does at last seem to have the selection right – it was the game plan against the Azzurri which was wrong.

At 9/2 on Betdaq, England are now clear second-favourites for the Championship after Ireland drifted out to 10/1 subsequent to their hefty defeat in Paris. The Boys in Green are given a roughly equal chance of beating their hosts at Twickenham however, with some bookies handicapping England by a point, others offering the same to Ireland.

There’s little doubt that this will be England’s toughest test of the tournament yet and Declan Kidney’s side will be confident of adding another win to their impressive Six Nations record over the English. Since the Red Rose’s Grand Slam in 2003, Ireland have beaten England on five out of six occasions and twice, in 2004 and 2006, in the last three meetings at Twickenham. However, it is worth remembering that Johnson’s side were very close to denying their opponents a first Grand Slam since 1948 when only a single point separated the sides at Croke Park almost exactly a year ago. England showed enough against Wales to suggest they can triumph over players who look a shadow of those that made up much of the Lions squad only last summer. The home side can be backed at evens with Boylesports.

South African referee Mark Lawrence is in charge tomorrow and considering the directive that southern hemisphere officials have received stating they should encourage free-flowing rugby, it is tempting to buy points at 41 with Sporting Index. The teams are so closely matched though that there is the possibility both could opt to take a conservative approach and kick for territory at the expense of running for tries.
I’d be more confident about betting on the second half to be the highest scoring half at 4/5 with Boylesports, while spread bettors may want to buy the time of the first match try at 30 minutes. England have taken a while to get going in their previous two matches, scoring just six points in the first 40 minutes against Italy and only claiming a first try in first-half injury time against Wales. Ireland had just three points at the break last time out and in this fixture last year we were made to wait 56 minutes for a touchdown.

England to win at EVS with Boylesports

Second half to be highest scoring half at 4/5 with Boylesports

Buy time of first match try at 30 mins with Sporting Index

Today – 8.00pm BBC1

As it proved such a success last year the evening kick-off is back for the 2010 Six Nations. The same teams compete, but this year it’s the Welsh fans’ turn to experience rugby under the Friday night lights of the Millennium Stadium.

Both Wales and France have each won two Grand Slams since the inaugural Six Nations Championship in 2000. Interestingly, both of Les Bleus’ faultless tournaments, in 2002 and 2004, came with a victory in Cardiff. It’s a great motivator for the French players, although you suspect that Marc Lièvremont has little need to get this aggressive bunch going in the form they’re currently enjoying.

The French have been outstanding in their two games so far, bullying the Scots into defeat in their first match and embarrassing last year’s Grand Slam winners with some handsome rugby in Paris. Wales are given a six point start tonight but I still prefer to back the visitors on the handicap at evens with Boylesports.

From past matches between the sides, it’s clear that there is a propensity for high scores. In the last 10 meetings, the lowest points tally recorded is 37; the highest, in 2001, a staggering 78. On this basis, there appears to be little downside in buying points at 40 with Sporting Index.

If we expect France to beat Wales at Cardiff, we should also expect them to go on to lift the Grand Slam. After today, their two remaining matches will be played in Paris, the first being against Italy, the second a potential Championship decider against England. Barring injury, you’d expect France to win both matches and certainly the first of the two. France’s price for the Slam is currently 10/11 on Betdaq so take it up now and watch the price fall tomorrow and even further if Les Bleus beat Italy, giving you the option to lay off for a profit ahead of the trickier match against England.

France to win with 6pt handicap at EVS with Boylesports

Buy points at 40 with Sporting Index

France to win Grand Slam at 10/11 on Betdaq