Once again, John O’Shea makes the journey from the poker tables to the 6 Nations to give us his best bets of the weekend.
I’ve been playing the European Deepstack all week. I got off to a flying start in the main event but couldn’t get it going on day two, and when my full house was beaten by a better full house, I got crippled. Then found a pair of 10s when I shoved in threes.
We move on, though, and there is bigger business at hand on Saturday, with the first games of week two in the 6 Nations Championship.
I took a hiding last weekend with Scotland and Ireland letting me down. I couldn’t help but feel robbed watching the Scotland game. I had called it right but a late block-down kick messed it all up.
A disappointing way for Dan Parks to end his international career; a disappointing way to see the bet go down!
Italy v England Sat 4pm
I thought that Italy showed good physicality last weekend and were right in it till the 60th minute at 15-9; then France’s class finally showed.
This game, in the new Stadio Olimpico, is the one the Italians are really gunning for. It’s their first game in the 70,000 capacity stadium and it was sold-out months ago.
Italy’s form in Rome in the last two seasons has amounted to three losses and two wins: beating the French and the Scots while losing by one point to Ireland, by five points to England and eight points to Wales.
Set this against the backdrop of Italy having been within one score at half-time of every opponent they have played since the World Cup, plus they were 6-6 with Australia in the World Cup last year.
The weather in Rome is poor and it was chucking down snow last night and there’s a 50/50 chance of precipitation (rain to you and me). These points form the backdrop to my following bets:
Italy half-time handicap +4
Italy handicap +8
Double result Italy ht/ft, around 5/1
I think if Italy can get out and running, they might sneak this one. Either way, I’m expecting it to be a close game.
France v Ireland Sat 8pm
Will Ireland bounce bank? This is a hard one to call. I think Ireland will get beaten, I’m just unsure whether we will get thrashed or keep it respectable.
It’s quite possible Ireland will go there half-settling for a respectable loss. I see Johnny Sexton is a doubt which will encourage the French to run at our centres, although with Earls in there I suspect that this was already the plan.
Ireland have had a day less recovery for this one and lost a day travelling as well. I can see a slow start from Ireland and possibly a poor finish. The weather in France is an issue with temperatures possibly falling below zero come game-time. I am close to favouring France at minus 9 points. Here are my bet recommendations:
Double result France ht/ft
France -9, as long as the weather doesn’t get too bad, but this is a game-time decision.
Wales v Scotland Sun 3pm
Scotland were rank last week while the Welsh had an impressive win in Dublin, which has resulted in Scotland getting a dozen or so points on the handicap.
Two things the Scots do well are defend and retain possession; they just can’t seem to do anything when they have the ball.
With Wales’ second-row crisis meaning they have to play a flanker in the back row, I expect the Scots to show a clear edge in the set pieces. With big bodies in the centre and, statistically, the best defence in the championship (on last week’s numbers), they should be able to control the Welsh attack better than Ireland.
If the Scots can do this – and make the suspect Welsh kickers shoot at goal – they should hold the edge on the handicap.
The bet is Scotland +13.