The nights may be drawing in for the European punter, but it’s a very different situation for the fast-approaching Rugby League World Cup, which kicks off on October 27, 2017 on the other side of the globe. The competition is co-hosted by Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, and runs until December 2.
The pinnacle tournament of Rugby League betting, this year's showdown offers the potential for some significant betting interest, especially for bettors eyeing the handicap market. Most notably, Australia are a very short-priced favourite, opening-up the online betting market for value seekers!
Favourite-backers in Rugby World Cups have invariably been on to a good thing by betting on the mighty Australians. They’ve dominated previous Rugby World Cups, which is why, according to the most of the top online bookmakers, their odds to win this year's Rugby World Cup are very skinny at aroudn 2/9.
Between 1954 and 1992 Australia won the old format of the Rugby World Cup seven times, with Great Britain taking the event on the other three occasions. And the Aussies' reputation as a favourite to be relied upon has continued to prove true since the tournament changed into the current knock-out format in 1995.
They've won it three times, with only New Zealand preventing total domination when they took the 2008 final against Australia, winning 34-20. The Australians have only ever failed to make it to the final of the Rugby World Cup once, and that was back in 1954 – meaning they've been finalists in 13 of 14 finals.
Given the Australians are massive favourites to win the World Cup outright, with William Hill pricing them up at odds of 2/9, it is going to be a huge shock if they don't repeat the feat and at the very least make it to the final.
Those wishing to oppose the Australians will be given some hope, thanks to the injury-induced absence of Greg Inglis and the (widely acclaimed) world's best rugby player, Johnathan Thurston, two major blows for the Aussies as they head into the Cup.
However, their starting 13 remains on paper the best in the world, with Queensland's Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith giving the side an ultra-strong foundation. Even their bench is likely to feature players who would walk into the other teams in the World Cup.
This includes the electric weaving runs of Tom Trbojevic and the creative class of James Maloney. Naturally, online bookies' odds on the Aussies were always going to be predictably short – but bookmakers have ensured they're virtually zero value at the price, as a single bet.
One of the most interesting aspects of the 2017 Rugby World Cup betting market, and indeed the tournament itself, is the opening clash between Australia and England – the 2/9 tournament favourite versus the 6/1 second favourite. Without digging deeper into the market, online bookies have the tournament down as a three-horse race.
New Zealand's 9/1 odds make them the only other side with odds below 20/1. And this makes the opening clash key, since whoever wins between Australia and England, should win the Group and have an easier route to the final, avoiding the potential of a tough clash with New Zealand, who defeated England in the 2013 semi-final.
England have a clean bill of health going into the tournament, albeit Zak Hardaker's absence virtue of a recreational drugs violation will be a loss. And with a core of Australian-based players, well rested after missing the NRL play-offs with their club sides, they offer some value to upset the Aussies.
It's also highly likely that England will go all-guns-blazing in the opening game against Australia, given the reward for a win would be a potentially much easier run to the final; their odds of 9/2 to win the opening match versus Australia look tempting.
Anyone having a bet on any of the three principles in the Rugby World Cup betting market (Australia, England and New Zealand) should consider a 20/1 saver with William Hill on the powerful and creative dark horses – Tonga. The Tongans are looking to cause an upset. And they're going about it in a very interesting manner.
In recent times, several players eligible for both Tonga and Australia have switched to the former. Most notably Andrew Fifita, who was actually named in Australia's World Cup squad in June. Jason Taumalolo opted for Tonga over New Zealand. He joins other defectors including Manu Ma’u, Sio Siua Taukieaho and David Fusitu’a.
It's thought that the rift in the New Zealand squad stems from a World Cup ban on two Kiwi players (Captain Jesse Bromwich and forward, Kevin Proctor) who were caught up in a cocaine allegation story, after a Test defeat in May 2017. Whatever the reasons for the change of teams, it strengthens Tonga's side considerably and their odds of 20/1 to win the competition look worth a punt.
Of the other sides in the tournament, backers will be looking for a very unlikely shock, given the kind of odds currently on offer with the expert bookmakers covering the rugby tournaments – including Wales 500/1, France 500/1, Scotland 300/1, Samoa 66/1 and Fiji 80/1 according to William Hill at the time of writing.
The World Cup is historically dominated by short-priced teams, and the only question for punters is whether to take the Australians on with the value bets offered by England, New Zealand and the Tongan dark horses. Whatever market you decide to place your money, you’ll find all you need at William Hill!