With the Six Nations being on free-to-air television in the UK and Ireland, it’s no wonder this event is popular with sports bettors, particularly as there’s so many different ways to wager!
With the likes of Italy, Scotland and fallen former giants France being big underdogs when they face the traditionally stronger Ireland, England or Wales, betting value in the match result market can be hard to come by.
Fortunately, there are other ways of making money off the so-called weaker sides, with specials available on all teams, including whipping boys Italy.
Handicap betting is probably the most common method for bettors who wager on rugby union. In rugby union, mismatches can be common, such as when 1000/1 outright Six Nations underdogs Italy take on Ireland, England, Wales or anyone in the tournament come to think of it!
So, to make such games interesting from a betting perspective, bookmakers will issue the likes of Italy with, say, a +25 handicap against Scotland, which is essentially giving them a 25-point head-start for the purposes of a bet. If you back Italy with that handicap and they lose by less than 25 points, your bet is a winner!
In instances where matches are much harder to call, Ireland against England being the prime example, whoever the favourite is will usually have a very small handicap of around -3, whereby they need to win by four or more points for your bet to be a winner. However, the best rugby bookmakers will offer a range of handicaps for the punter to make their own judgement.
Betting on the winning margin is similar to handicap betting, but for some punters it’s easier to get your head around. For example, If you have a hunch Wales will beat France by anything between 1-10 points, you can bet on that without having to worry about handicaps being covered.
Indeed, in many cases you’ll find better value for your stake in the Winning Margins market. If you fancy Wales to absolutely steamroll France, rather than just win marginally, you can bet on the Welsh to win by a margin of between 11-20 points.
Think it could be even more? You’re looking at huge odds for a Wales win by a 21-30 margin. Such markets are widely available, and the margins are offered in fives too. This can be a fun way to bet against wooden spoon regulars Italy, who are all too often on the wrong side of a trouncing.
Betting on who will be winning at half-time and then full-time in the same bet is a fun and potentially very profitable way to bet on Six Nations games and rugby union in general.
If you’re a bettor who likes to stake small at high odds, this is the best type of bet for you.
The permutations are simple – you pick the team you think will be up at half time, and you also pick the team you think will be ahead by full-time. Get both right and you're a winner! If you can fathom a draw at either half-time or full-time, or both, your odds will go through the roof, but draws are very difficult to call in rugby.
When the tournament favourites have to visit a rival’s home ground, there is good reason to bet on the HT/FT market. For example, 2019 pre-tournament favourites Ireland travel to Wales in their last game where the Irish should be favourites, but only just.
Wales will always put up a strong fight on home soil against anyone, but Ireland’s superiority should prevail in the end. You’d be looking at odds of around 6/1 for Wales to be winning at the break, but Ireland to pull through and take the win by full-time. It can be a shrewd, strategic bet for value seekers.
In rugby union, there are several different ways of scoring points. A try, which earns a team five points, is the most coveted score, and if you land a try you automatically earn a shot at a conversion for the opportunity to pick up an extra two points.
However, the most common opening score comes in the form of a penalty. Penalties are frequent in rugby union, much more so than tries, so it is somewhat of a surprise to see that bookmakers still price up the match favourites at around 6/4 to open the scoring from a penalty.
The tricky part is getting the team who opens the scoring correct, as penalties can be awarded for even the slightest of infringements, so it’s not uncommon for the match underdogs to score first from a kick.
There is another option, of course, which is a drop goal, but the drop goal is usually reserved as a last resort style of scoring and is therefore very unlikely to be the first score in a Six Nations match. Odds for the favourites to open a match scoring with a drop goal are typically around 66/1.
Similar to the first goalscorer which is very popular with football bettors, the first try scorer market is a wide open field and it often pays off to look at each team’s recent try scorers.
The first try scorer market is typically topped by wingers as they’re the quickest players on the pitch and are often relied upon to finish off a sweeping move.
However, it can be beneficial to save your first try scorer bet for in-play, as highly anticipated games can transcend into ugly dogfights, during which anyone can be the first to cross the whitewash.
Have a player in mind before the game begins, sure, but wait and see what way the game develops in the early stages. Is it open and free-flowing? Pick a winger! Is the game being dominated by rucks and mauls? Your guess is as good as anyone's!
If you’re not convinced either way, there’s always the ‘no try scorer’ option, which in rugby union is more common than you might think.
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Reviewer since June 2016