Tony Calvin heads to the specials markets for his final pre-tournament World Cup wager with punters advised to stay on red alert.
My opening two columns on the Rugby World Cup should have left you in no doubt about my love for South Africa in this tournament, but one of the worst traits a punter can have – and I probably possess the full house, bar chasing - is a blinkered train of thought.
It is the major reason that I am not alone in eschewing a 'tracker' on horse racing (for the uninitiated in that sport, these are automatic notifications you get when a horse you have made a note to follow is entered up in a race) as it can make you lazy and not appreciate the full extent of the opposition and the true task in hand.
And analysing any betting heat without an open mind is ripe for doing your dough.
To be honest with you, when first going through the multitude of specials and secondary markets on Monday afternoon, very little stood out for me.
The obvious one that did – South Africa to make the final at 2/1 – was so out of kilter that I thought it best to openly tweet the bookmaker in question, as no good could have come of them laying that rick.
At the same time, I was trying to get matched at 2.64 (13/8) on Betfair and was only third in the queue, which gives you an indication of the mistake made (it was immediately cut to 11/8 after my selfless act on social media…).
While on the subject of the Springboks, my initial instinct is that the 4/1 about them losing in the final looks on the big side.
The Boks are no-offers to get to the quarters so, factoring in that New Zealand are about 4/7 to reach the final and thus making 'my' team underdogs in that match-up, the 4s initially made a lot of appeal.
You’d effectively have that price about the All Blacks in the winner-takes-all game if they both got to the final.
Granted, that 4/1 wouldn’t be too clever were South Africa to get the worst-case scenario of Ireland in the quarters and England in the semis, and New Zealand being knocked out before the tournament-closer – unlikely, but that could play out – but an Ireland/Scotland-Australia/Wales route to a final game against the Kiwis, and that price looks very big indeed.
But it is a bit more involved than that, and the price isn’t that far off, on reflection.
I thought that was the closest I was going to get to having a bet in the special markets, until I saw Hills’ 10/11 about there being more four or more red cards in the tournament (or over 3.5 to use their wording).
Firms have shied away from offering the Yes/No red card markets in individual matches, but I quite like the opportunity to play on these types of lines, and it is clear that the coaches are very worried about the potential for an increased number of dismissals in the coming weeks.
The ruling body is clearly making a concerted effort to clamp down on high tackles and shoulder charges in particular, and a statement from World Rugby on August 30 could have big ramifications on the number of players sent off in the tournament.
I won’t bore you with all the details but the match officials now have use of Hawkeye technology that allows every angle to be explored when it comes to identifying serious foul play, with the referee having to get verification from the Television Match Official (TMO) before issuing a red card.
And presumably the TMO alerts the on-field officials when he sees anything, too.
Of course, that can work both ways - 'wrong' dismissals could be reversed - but it is clear that a safety-first, and zero-tolerance, approach will be adopted here, with World Rugby referee overseer Alain Rolland stating that red cards will be issued "without hesitation".
And it was suggested in the Sunday Times last weekend that the TMO "will be flanked by two spotters, one of whom will watch the game on a five-second delay, the other on a 10-second delay."
If that is the case, then nothing should be missed, as has been the case in some recent warm-up games, such as France’s Paul Gabrillagues’ dangerous shot on John Barclay against Scotland last month, when he was cited afterwards and banned for six weeks.
The recent changes were apparently trialled at the recent World Under-20 championship, where there were four red cards, and you suspect it could be a worse scenario here.
Only 17 players have been dismissed in World Cup history (eight tournaments since 1987), but that could be considerably ramped up. There were four red cards in 1995 and 1999 and something similar can be expected.
I am happy to chuck a few quid at Hills’ 10/11, with Betfair Sportsbook offering 5/6 and Sky Bet 8/11. It’s not a hefty bet by any means, hence the stake, but it is definitely worth an interest at the standout price in the current climate.
Back later in the week with a look at the opening eight games in the tournament.
Posted at 1300 BST on 17/09/19
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