Stan Hey: 6-5 Against

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The Independent Online

None of us would wish to be without a World Cup every four years but the most of the qualifying games have all the interest of a drum solo at a rock concert. And as a punter you can't get interested – 25 quid on England to beat Kazakhstan to win two back – though as a bank you might be.

Instead, we turn to rugby union's versions of the Champions League, the Heineken Cup, started last night, with the first round of pool matches continuing over the weekend. Bath (14-1) face favourites Toulouse (9-2) and Gloucester (14-1) hosting Biarritz (33-1). It's a long haul to May's Final, and durable squads are required. I fancy Wasps – £10 win at 16-1 (Blue Square) – who have the know-how to progress.

The Japanese Grand Prix unfurls tomorrow, summoning memories of James Hunt's championship in 1976 and the intentional Alain Prost-Ayrton Senna crashes of the late 1980s. Ferrari wouldn't try to "take out" Lewis Hamilton – Max Mosley would crack the whip – but team tactics may help Felipe Massa cut the Brit's lead. If Ferrari have fixed their scary pit-stops, Massa can win (£10, 2-1 general) to set up a thrilling finale.

Finally, to the NFL where pre-season fancies have struggled – two of them, the San Diego Chargers and the New England Patriots, meet on Sunday, both having been beaten by the Miami Dolphins, the Hull City of the NFL. The Patriots are value to win – £10 at 21-10, Paddy Power.

*Good luck to those who backed Yaddree each-way (I didn't), as some bookies paid out on fifth in the Cambridgeshire. Vision D'Etat was also fifth, in the Arc, but Zarkava was a one-horse race. St Helens couldn't handle Leeds, the wet conditions, or my bet in the Grand Final.

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