Rugby Union: At odds with the bookies

CONTRARY to my expectations, England are not odds-on favourites for the Five Nations' Championship. The odds which the bookies are offering are: England 11-10, France 6-5, Ireland 8-1, Scotland 18-1 and Wales 33-1.

I thought the odds would reflect English pride at the win over New Zealand and would fail to reflect France's achievement in beating Australia once. Consequently, I calculated, England would be over-priced, reflecting not only pride, but pre-Christmas sentimentality; while France would turn out to be something of a bargain.

But not a bit of it. Those bookies are not fools. They are offering 1.1-1 against England, 1.2-1 against France. It is likely that the outcome of the championship, now decided on score differences if match points are the same at the end of the competition, will be settled by the England and France game to be played in Paris.

Look at it this way. Suppose a punter has pounds 100 (not a colossal sum these days) to invest, as the bookies like to put it, or to spend on entertainment, as I prefer to regard the transaction. An English win in the championship will produce a profit of pounds 10; a French win, one of pounds 12. We are talking about a difference of pounds 2. Is it worth it? No, in my opinion, it is not.

Mention of the sum pounds 2 reminds me of what Hugh McIlvanney once said about duty-free purchases of wines and spirits. If a complete stranger came up to you, McIlavanney observed, and offered you pounds 2 to carry a bottle of whisky half-way round the world, you would give him a punch on the jaw.

I feel much the same way about the bookies coupling France and England at virtually identical odds. It is not what I would call a fair book. I would advise punters either to treat the competition with what the late George Brown called a 'complete ignoral' or else to invest in one of the other countries who may provide some fun for their money.

Patriotic Scots will support Scotland, though the various Scottish performances against the All Blacks (excepting that of the A side) do nothing to convince that they will be challenging for the championship.

Ireland strike me as a better bet. I am not unduly influenced by their performance against a jaded England at the end of last season, when the now discarded Jeff Probyn was the only English forward not to succumb by the end. That was the kind of performance which the Irish reserve for Lansdowne Road.

Nor do loose-head props such as Nick Popplewell (the only non- English forward who would, on current form, force himself into a Lions pack) win matches on their own - though loose-heads who go to pieces, as Popplewell is most unlikely to do, can certainly lose matches. Kickers, alas, win matches, and in Eric Elwood the Irish have a kicker in the class of Ollie Campbell or Tony Ward.

Alan Davies, the Welsh coach, certainly sees Neil Jenkins in this light. He has made a place for him in the centre to accommodate his kicking abilities. His partner would have been Scott Gibbs, who was sadly put out for the rest of the season after badly injuring his knee in the Barbarians and New Zealand game.

However, this match was by no means an entirely gloomy occasion from a Welsh point of view. Anthony Clement had a marvellous game at full-back. Nigel Walker showed that he was not just a pretty pair of legs. And Scott Quinnell demonstrated that at last Wales had got hold of a true, specialist No 8 of international class, though according to the heightist principles of the modern game he may, at 6ft 3in, be considered too short.

I would balance his youth with the experience of Phil Davies, who is still an inspirational forward in the manner of Dean Richards. And I would bring Clement into the centre in place of Gibbs, while reintroducing the unlucky Mike Rayer at full-back.

I am not saying that Wales are going to win the championship. That would be silly. But in betting terms they seem to me a better bargain at 33-1 than Scotland at 18-1, and much better fun than England at 11-10 or France at 6-5.

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas