Rugby Union Betting: Weekend Preview

In the early hours of Saturday morning, Christchurch in New Zealand stages its first rugby international since the devastating earthquake 18 months ago. Chances are, by the time they leave the field, the mighty All Blacks will have shaken Ireland to destruction.

That looks like it could be the first of three defeats for the teams from the British Isles in the southern hemisphere, with Australia the pick to beat Wales and go 2-0 up in their three-match series, and the Springboks looking likely to beat England when they meet in Johannesburg later on Saturday.

New Zealand are 1.02 to win over the Irish, Australia 1.42 to win their match and South Africa 1.20 to beat England, which all rounds up into a respectable treble.

Ireland are an ageing side and were well and truly stuffed by the world champions last week. This week, the points margin could be greater still, as the Blacks get their game together with more fluency than they showed last week. The 1.85 on there being more than 50 points scored in the game ought to be easy money, and the 1.90 offered on the hosts winning by 23 points or more also looks attractive.

In the inspired form they showed in the Six Nations earlier in the year, Wales might have been able to beat the under-performing Wallabies, who were stunned by Scotland in a dour game earlier last week.

But Wales are missing key players such as world-class centre Jamie Roberts, and an injury to giant wing George North last week has further reduced their options. Wales have not won an international in the southern hemisphere in 25 years, and are without a victory against the Australia test side down under since 1969. The odds are stacked against them in Melbourne this time.

This will undoubtedly be the tightest of Saturday’s three big games, and backing Wales to get within the 5-point handicap priced at 1.95 could be a profitable upset.

England have made significant changes since last week’s 22-17 defeat in Durban, with Leicester’s Toby Flood coming in at fly-half in place of Owen Farrell. Jonathan Joseph, an exciting and explosive ball carrier, makes his international debut at centre.

Flood, who has 48 caps, impressed when he came on as a 54th-minute replacement for Brad Barritt in Durban. "Toby has obviously been around England a long time and is one of our most experienced players," Stuart Lancaster, the England coach, said in announcing the recall. Flood has not started an England international since last year’s World Cup.

South Africa have made just the one change to their line-up for the second game of the three-test series: Pat Lambie is recalled at full-back in place of Zane Kirchener, who suffered a knee injury in the first Test.

The game could be tight for the first hour, and betting that less than 44.5 points will be scored would seem to be shrewd, given last week’s result.

Probably the biggest factor in the game will be the high altitude at Ellis Park, though: something which even some of the greatest sides have struggled to cope with. As England’s pack tires in the thin air, the Springboks could get away from their opposition in the final quarter, so betting on more than 44.5pts (1.85) is the tip. Take South Africa to win by more than 10pts (1.90) in the handicap betting, too.