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14/09/2007 No.22
Dan Roebuck
Friday September 14, 2007
  Injured England offer healthy value in handicap market

England's chaotic build-up to tonight's heavyweight battle against South Africa has also caused panic in bookmakers' trading rooms across the country. The Springboks were always going to be short-priced favourites for the game in Paris (1-7, generally, is the best available), but the fly-half injury crisis and Phil Vickery's suspension have forced firms to cut Jake White's team in the match and handicap markets.

Coral responded by easing Brian Ashton's side on the handicap from 8-11 with a 13-point start to 10-11 with a 16-point start. "We simply can't give England away at the moment and all the money in the last few hours has been for South Africa on the handicap," said their spokesman Simon Clare shortly after the team was announced.

For those wanting to back England on the handicap, Stan James is the best avenue, offering evens about the world champions with a 17-point start. South Africa are generally available giving up 16 points at 10-11. England are a standout 6-1 with Sportingbet and William Hill to pull off a shock victory.

England's odds have drifted in the betting across all relevant markets because of the injury and suspension problems. Ashton's team are now 40-1 (general) to defend their title, 11-2 (general) to win Pool A and only 4-5 (Paddy Power) that they will be eliminated in the quarter-finals. Ladbrokes even offer 6-1 they will not make it to the knockout stages.

This does not mean the layers want England to make a premature exit from the competition, however. Ladbrokes have reported turnover up on the last World Cup, mainly due to the popularity of handicap betting, but as their David Williams admitted: "We need the home nations - and England in particular - to be competitive if we're going to see the tournament really take off." Williams expects this weekend to outdo last in terms of money taken over the counter, with the Stade de France game possibly seeing £1m punted across the industry.

South Africa, meanwhile, have seen their odds go in the other direction. Ladbrokes have already laid one £150,000 bet on the Springboks to become world champions at 5-1 - Hills face an even bigger payout after a client placed the same amount on Australia earlier this week for a return of £1.275m - and even though they are without the flanker Schalk Burger through suspension they cannot be opposed in match betting tonight.

The handicap market, though, is different. The layers may have over-reacted to England's personnel problem. In the 12 matches so far in the tournament, on nine occasions the side getting the handicap - the underdog in the outright match betting - has been successful. England, therefore, look a decent betting proposition getting 17 points in what could be a low-scoring game. VC Bet offer 5-6 that there will be fewer than 46 points in the match, which also looks a worthwhile punt (spread bettors can sell at 44 with Sporting Index).

Ashton has no specialist No10 or goalkicker available so points may be harder to come by. You can sell England's total points in the match at 13 with Sporting Index. In Coral's market on how many points the stand-in kicker, Andy Farrell, will score, nine-to-14 is 2-1 favourite but they also offer 10-1 he fails to score at all. Farrell had a great record in rugby league but his last kick at goal at Test level was for Great Britain three years ago.

Sell England's total points in the match at 13 with Sporting Index. Index.
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