CAN Martin Johnson do as coach what he did as captain eight years ago and lead England to glory in the Rugby World Cup? A bumpy build-up and an apparent lack of creativity in his squad selection suggest that Johnno will struggle to replicate his achievement. Sporting Index quotes the Red Rose at 41-44, where 100 points are awarded to the winner, 80 points to the runner-up, 60 points for third, 50 for fourth, 25 to the losing quarter-finalists and then 10, 5 and 0 for finishing, respectively, third, fourth and last in each of the four pools.
England are listed fifth in the betting, behind the hosts and huge favourites New Zealand (81-84), Australia (62-65), 2007 World Champions South Africa (53-56) and France (47-50). Namibia bring up the rear with a spread of 0.01-0.5. A £100 sell would yield £1 should Namibia finish last in Pool D, while a £100 buy would become £450 if they finished fourth.
With the range of markets on offer for the quadrennial tournament, which kicks off on Friday, punters can do much better than just taking a position on how well or poorly a team will perform. How about the challenge of predicting how many points will be scored over the entire 48 matches? Sporting Index offers a spread of 2,400-2,430, while Spreadex are offering 2,430-2,480. That equates to a low average of 50 points per match.
It’s clear that both Sporting Index and Spreadex are expecting the one-sided mismatches in the pool stages — those involving the likes of Namibia, Romania and Georgia — to bulk up the total. In the 2007 World Cup, Namibia shipped 87 points to France and the All Blacks averaged 77 points per game against their Pool C opponents Italy, Portugal, Romania and Scotland. This opens up the way for shrewder punters to trade the market as it moves throughout the tournament. With the big scoring, one-sided matches in the early stages of the competition, one might expect the total points spread to edge skywards, prompting a sell in anticipation of an expected deflation in the market price when the defences get tighter and squads thinner in the knockout stages.
A less volatile, but no less attractive tournament market is the number of drop goals – 14.5-16 with Sporting Index, a smidgen higher with Spreadex – we are to see in New Zealand. Many will vividly remember Jonny Wilkinson’s winning kick in extra-time of the 2003 final and should he be preferred to Toby Flood as England’s fly half then more buyers might be expected. A total of 14 drop goals were scored in the 2007 tournament in South Africa, five of which were scored by Wilkinson. While in Australia in 2003, he notched up eight of the competition’s 23 successful drop kicks.
NEW ZEALAND SUPREME
With respect to individual teams, punters can buy or sell total aggregate supremacy over a team’s opposition through the tournament. While England’s supremacy stands at 115-130 with Sporting Index, New Zealand’s is a hefty 230-250. However, buying the hosts’ supremacy at 250 could prove to be an astute bet. In 2007, Richie McCaw’s men had exceeded the upper figure before the end of the pool stages and when they were eventually beaten by hosts France in the quarter-finals, it was by just two points. Alongside Japan, Tonga and Canada in Pool A, there are points to be scored for the All Blacks and few to be conceded.