With two derbies to look forward to and confidence in Gloucester’s ability to win at Wasps, the West Country dominates today’s best rugby odds round-up.
The Rugby Tipster keeps you up-to-date with the latest on each round of matches in the Gallagher Premiership. Our in-depth knowledge of form and team selection can guide your rugby betting selections and get you the best rugby odds.
BRISTOL BEARS (1st)
Friday January 29th
PREDICTION – BEARS BY 10
BATH RUGBY (9th)
As we all know, rugby isn’t played on paper – not even the ‘A4 derby’ between Bristol and Bath.
The age-old rivals, separated by 14 miles of road, clash at Ashton Gate on Friday night in round seven of the Gallagher Premiership.
And the bookies seem to be focusing on the players Bath are missing, not the ones they have got by giving Bath +13 on the handicap.
Anthony Watson is away with England, as is captain Charlie Ewels and props Beno Obano and Will Stuart, while Sam Underhill is injured. But Watson hasn’t played with any great authority for the blue, black and whites for a while now, and looking at the front-row, Bath are still well-stocked with quality performers.
Sharks signing Juan Schoeman and Christian Judge come into the front row and sit either side of Tom Dunn, a player for whom West Country derbies were made for.
Josh McInally leads the side from lock in Ewels’ absence and is joined in the second row Elliott Stooke. Josh Bayliss, Miles Reid and Zach Mercer make up a youthful back-row.
While the Bath pack has taken a bit of a hit, especially in the loose forwards, in Ruaridh McConnochie, Jonathan Joseph, Rhys Priestland and Ben Spencer, Bath have four players in the back line with World Cup experience.
And on the bench, Bath can count upon the considerable talent of Taulupe Faletau and Scotland new boy Cam Redpath.
Threats all over
Ninth-place Bath have still put out a strong squad and the question is just how much they can translate that talent into a performance and pick up only their second win of the Premiership season.
Bristol have had no such problems putting their efforts on the training ground into practice, storming to the top of the table on the back of five wins. Pat Lam has to take a lot of the credit for that.
Max Malins, Harry Randall and Ben Earl have been three key components in their rise but all three are unavailable this weekend due to their England commitments.
Kyle Sinckler is also serving the first game of a two-match ban, but Callum Sheedy has been released back by Wales and sits on the bench.
Reading the Bears’ line-up from back to front will put the fear of god into Bath fans. Charles Piutau, Luke Morahan and Semi Radradra are the first three names you come across!
Following on from there, teenage sensation Ioan Lloyd gets a rare chance as the starting 10, while a pack including the likes of John Afoa, Dave Attwood, captain Steven Luatua and Nathan Hughes is not to be messed with.
Rarely can a Bristol team have been full two-score favourites against Bath and if the visitors are going to do anything to appease their supporters this season, they need to deliver on Friday night.
Verdict: The Bears to prevail but Bath to land a few punches in an entertaining game.
LEICESTER TIGERS (6th)
Friday January 29th
PREDICTION – SALE BY 4
SALE SHARKS (4th)
Ruggedly good-looking and possessing an easy way with words, Alex Sanderson is the type of Director of Rugby you can easily imagine having a bromance with. He clearly gets on well with his players and lights up a room with his enthusiasm. And by the looks of it, his return to Sale, after nearly two decades away, could be a marriage made in heaven. We expect the honeymoon period to begin with what would be a fifth straight win over Leicester.
Whilst the former Saracens defence coach has vowed not to rip up everything his predecessor Steve Diamond put in place, there is bound to be less of an authoritarian feel to the relationship between the new DoR and a squad that has so far failed to light the blue touch paper this season. The cold, wet weather may not see the shackles completely unleashed but buoyed by the arrival of a new face and voice, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect a better performance from the north’s leading club.
If you want mean, moody and very few words, look no further than the Tigers dugout. While Steve Borthwick also enjoyed huge success with Saracens, albeit as a captain not coach, the former England lock takes an alternative view to Sanderson in terms of how he portrays himself. That is being mirrored by a no-frills Tigers team that relies heavily on old warhorses like Tom Youngs, who becomes a Tigers double centurion at Welford Road, front-row partner Dan Cole and Calum Green.
Young Freddie Steward has been outstanding at full-back but the Tigers backline as a whole does not compare that favourably to Sale’s. The James brothers, fullback Luke and outside centre Sam, are joined on the flanks by international wing men, Byron McGuigan and Marland Yarde, Sam Hill is at inside centre and the Faf de Klerk and AJ MacGinty half-back axis is one of pure quality.
Upfront, the Sharks are deprived of a number of quality players but you can expect Sale to roll their sleeves up and, if they take the few chances that come their way, overcome the 3-point handicap against them in a low-scoring game.
VERDICT: Prodigal son to shine on debut
GLOUCESTER RUGBY (12th)
Saturday January 30th
PREDICTION – SAINTS BY 5
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS (8th)
There have been a history of tight games between these sides in recent years, and the handicap line reflects that, with Saints handed a two-point start.
Taking the last six encounters, the average winning margin is six points, but this is the first time during that period the sides have met during the Six Nations window.
Neither side performed well at this point of the season 12 months ago. The Cherry & Whites picked up three points – the worst return of any team – and Saints only managed double that with one win to their name.
Saints are relatively light on injuries and only have Courtney Lawes away on international duty, whereas Gloucester are missing big-game players like Jonny May, Louis Rees-Zammit and Chris Harris. Willi Heinz and Jason Woodward are back from injury, however.
The key to this game could be Gloucester’s discipline. The Cherry & Whites keep shooting themselves in the foot in that respect with six yellow cards to date – the most in the league – and an average of 12 penalties conceded across the first six rounds. Saints, by contrast, have only lost Dan Biggar to the sin-bin – no surprises there, then – and have the best penalty count in the league.
One concern with Saints is their defence. They miss an average of 25 tackles per match and improvement is needed in that area if they are to move up the table.
Ollie Thorley is a hard man to put down at the best of times and you’d back him to get on the scoresheet.
Verdict: Saints to beat sinners
WORCESTER WARRIORS (10th)
Saturday January 30th
PREDICTION – CHIEFS BY 14
EXETER CHIEFS (3rd)
Worcester had a meagre return of four points from the four games played throughout the 2020 Six Nations and it is hard to see them getting anything more than that against Chiefs.
The Chiefs have had a wake-up call with back-to-back defeats to Bristol and Wasps and you can wager that DoR Rob Baxter has been spending every waking hour making sure the rot stops here.
“I guess my biggest mistake has not been resetting from last season because in reality, we went from winning two finals in a space of a week, the players then had two and a half weeks off, before they were back in training getting ready for that first game up at Harlequins,” Baxter admitted.
COVID-19 has also played havoc with how team’s prepare. Things out of the ordinary, like the pandemic, can throw a spanner in the works of even the best-oiled machines.
Exeter are without their England quartet – Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jonny Hill, Harry Williams, Henry Slade – but the Scottish pair, Stuart Hogg and Jonny Gray, both feature in the XV and Wales’ Tomas Francis starts at tight-head.
Veteran Ian Whitten is shifted back to the centres and that looks like a sensible move, The Irishman does not have the gas to play out on the wing and having Tom ‘O’Flaherty and Olly Woodburn out there will boost their ability to finish off any chances in the wide channels if they ever decide against the route one approach.
Worcester have done little this season to suggest they are worthy of anything more than making up the numbers in the Premiership, and we expect the Chiefs to steamroller their way to a comprehensive victory.
Verdict: Chiefs to press button on ‘Project Reset’
Sunday January 31st
PREDICTION – IRISH BY 4
Do not under-estimate the loss of Gary Graham from Newcastle’s back row. The Scotland international gives Newcastle an enormous amount of self-belief and go-forward.
The loss of both him and England’s Mark Wilson from the Falcons’ back-row cannot be under-estimated, especially in a game that appears to have all the hallmarks of a tight, physical clash where no quarter will be asked or given.
Equally, the Falcons have refused to give in to the notion that their bubble will burst sooner or later, and it is hard to back against them even if they are playing a spirited and talented London Irish side that impressed in a high-scoring draw against Harlequins last time out.
So, our preference for this game is to ignore the handicap line of +2 in Irish’s favour and focus on the total match points market instead.
Prior to their 25-25 draw with Quins, Irish had only averaged 15 points per game in the league this season, and relied heavily on the boot of Paddy Jackson. Newcastle’s defence has been a real area of consistency under the coaching of Nick Easter and even without their two international back-rowers, it is hard to see them being as soft a touch as Quins were.
Newcastle’s impressive start to the season has been built on defence, and while they are capable of putting together good attacking moves and hurting sides, they are rarely in try-bonus point territory, which is why we are recommending Under 39.5 total match points are today’s bet. Recent history supports this, too, as less than 40 points have been scored in four of the last six fixtures between the sides.
Sunday January 31st
PREDICTION – WASPS BY 8
Wasps are missing two of the most in-form players in the Gallagher Premiership at the moment in England call-ups, Paolo Odogwu and Jack Willis, but they still possess a wealth of talent – and, just as importantly, belief – to see off a Quins side still coming to terms with Paul Gustard’s departure to Italy.
There’s been talk that that Gustard’s exit was player-led and, if so, there could be a positive kick-back. However, in these type of circumstances it tends to be more profitable to back the team that is settled, happy and playing consistently than one where dressing room drama seems embedded in the culture.
Joe Launchbury is a big player for Wasps but having Wales lock Will Rowlands available offsets that loss to a large degree, while the decision of Matteo Minozzi not to take part in the Six Nations adds considerable flair to the Wasps backline, which is also boosted by the return from injury of Zach Kibirige and Malakai Fekitoa.
Quins’ line-up is a real mix of youth and experience. Joe Marler, Danny Care and Mike Brown were three England regulars until recently, and Marcus Smith and Joe Marchant, while still relatively young, are nearing 100 appearances for the west Londoners.
That said, Wasps versus Quins games are ones where passions are roused and we think Wasps have the mentality and the form to get the job done in a match where points should be plentiful.
If the 1/2 about Wasps winning lacks appeal, check out the Double Result market.
Wasps scored 24 first-half points in their 52-44 rout of Bath in Round 6 but still trailed by five points at the break. In fact, Wasps have been behind at half-time in four out of their six league games and, until The Rec rampage, had only managed an average of 5.4 first-half points per match.
With that in mind, the rugby odds of 11/2 on a double result of Quins HT, Wasps FT look decent.
As for try-scorers, Tom Cruse has dotted down twice in this fixture before, which is a decent return considering he has only managed 11 in his 77-match top-flight career. The Wasps hooker has also found his way to the try-line on three occasions this season and is 23/10 to do so again at the Ricoh Arena this afternoon.
Quins No.8 Alex Dombrandt (21/10, Paddy Power) is level with Cruse on three tries for the season and is no stranger to the try line in Wasps-Quins fixtures either, after bagging a brace in Quins’ 32-23 defeat to Wasps back in September. He also scored in The Big Game at Twickenham two years ago.