Bookmakers face a bruising time as the Rugby World Cup Japan 2019 (RWC Japan 2019) kicks-off this Friday 20 September. Facing a raft of inbound patriotic bets placed on ‘home nations’, can bookmakers trust the formbook in what could become betting’s most unpredictable market of the year… SBC gets the bookies lowdown!
SBC: Featuring six market leaders that have all beaten each competitively within the past 12-months, is RWC Japan 2019 this year’s hardest sports market to call?
Harry Aitkenhead (PR @ Coral): The Rugby World Cup should be a great spectacle from a betting point of view with some colossal matches between the big sides, particularly the further into the tournament we get. The way that there are five or six teams that can all beat anybody on their day means we have one of the most open World Cups we have ever seen and it means whoever you are backing the odds will always be favourable.
In terms of other sporting events this year, it is an interesting comparison. New Zealand are a shorter price to triumph in Japan than England were to win the Cricket World Cup (11/8 vs 2/1), however, in the rugby edition, there are then five other nations around 10/1 or shorter. The market seems to suggest that the big six are all in with genuine chances, whereas everybody else is going to really struggle to get involved and will need to spring a few surprises.
We could easily see quarter-finals between England and Wales and Ireland and South Africa which would set the tone for the knockout matches and really drive interest from punters.
The time the matches are on should be good, although different, for the business with a lot of early morning action. On the weekends, in particular, these will lead to some fantastic days of sport and we are really excited about the next month or so.
SBC: Rugby prides itself on being a team sport… However which players will be the superstars of Japan 2019?
Alistair Gill (Sportsbook Analyst – Kindred Group): With New Zealand the short price favourites to win the tournament, we are expecting their players to star individually as well. Winger Rieko Ioane is the favourite to finish up top try scorer at 8/1, and could look a solid bet to finish in the top 4 try scorers at 2/1. Teammates Sevu Reece (10/1) and George Bridge (12/1) come in at 3rd and 4th favourites in a market where 3 of the top 5 are NZ players.
Patriotic Brits will have to trawl a bit further down the line for the first England player in the list, Jonny May in as a 14/1 shot and, should the 3rd favourites perform to expectations, again a bet for him to finish in the top 4 try scorers may be good value at 7/2.
In the top point scorer market, England captain and fly-half Owen Farrell tops the betting at 11/4. Although likely to score his fair share of points, 11/4 looks maybe a small bit short considering the big hitters in behind. Handre Pollard is second favourite here, installed as a 5/1 shot, with again 2 New Zealanders in behind, Beauden Barrett a 13/2 shot, who may well be the value play, and Richie Mounga in at 10/1. If Ireland go well in the tournament it would be no shock to see Johnathan Sexton up there at 12/1.
SBC: Will RWC Japan 2019 be the tournament where we see a new Rugby force emerge challenging established Northern & Southern hemisphere powers?
Ryan Hughes (Head of UK Sports @ Kambi Plc): It would be a nice outcome, but very unlikely. Until tier two nations are given regular tests against the tier ones that gap looks set to remain.
Hosts Japan will be backed by a vocal home support and look the most likely to challenge the established elite. Their final game of the pool stage sees them face Scotland, with the winner likely to qualify for the knock out stages. Reflecting this, Japan to reach the quarter-final is currently at 3.50.
However, Samoa is also worth keeping an eye on in Group A. With a new head coach in Steve Jackson and having entered the competition quietly and written off by most, they might spring a surprise. With all eyes on Japan breaking the established order in that group, could Samoa be the ones to do the damage?
The only other team with the potential to cause a shock is Fiji. The Pacific Islanders have some real star power, with the likes of Radradra, Nakarawa, Botia and Tuisova among the best players In European club rugby in recent years. In spite of this, they look unlikely to get out of a pool that includes both Wales & Australia. They are currently 10.0 to qualify for the quarter-final.
SBC: Without a ball being kicked, are England already marked out as the ‘tournament bad guys’ of RWC Japan 2019?
Joe Lee (Head of GB&I @ Paddy Power): If England are to win the 2019 RWC it is more likely they’ll bludgeon their way to the title than be subsequently revered for their pace and passing prowess – their obvious game plan is to give the ball to their big men and let them knock the opponents out of the way like lightweight skittles.
Throw a sharp-tongued, won’t back down coach, Eddie Jones into the mix and you have a concoction that the rest of the world will love to hate. In fact, we believe that one Mr Jones could have given Rami Malek a run for his money as the upcoming Bond Villain with some of his touchline mannerisms of late!
All jokes aside, England find themselves in the group of death (C), which will mean that one of England, France or Argentina will be heading home before a playoff game is kicked off. Fortunately for England, France are living up to their ‘box of chocolates’ billing in recent years – you just never know what you’re going to get, but we believe they’ll find the soft centres sooner rather than later. Argentina have been going from strength to strength in recent years with their new found exposure to the Rugby Championship, but even that may see them fall a little short when it comes to puncturing a chariot or two.
So what for England when they escape Group C – it’s likely they run into Wales or Australia in a quarter-final, followed by the possibility of an All Black semi-final. Any of these would be marquee matchups and have many rising early to monitor events in the land of the rising sun. Market makers would see them favoured over Wales or Australia right now, but those who want to see a chariot derailed may get their opportunity come to a semi-final.