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How to bet on rugby

Rugby Betting Advice

Rugby is a sport that, in general, isn’t considered among the most popular when it comes to betting. Soccer, horse racing and US sports are generally among the most gambled on sports. That’s not to say that people don’t bet on rugby matches. If you are a fan of rugby and new to betting on sports, then rugby may be the game for you. One of the main reasons for this is that there aren’t as many betting markets to choose from. This may sound unappealing at first, but like anything getting to grips with the basics is very important. In this article I will take you through the various betting markets available and what you need to consider before choosing your bet. Please note that this is a guide for those new to sports betting and is mainly concerned with match betting.

Rugby League and Rugby Union, what are the key differences and how does it affect betting?

For outsiders the difference between the two codes of rugby might seem marginal and indeed the basic principle of both games – carrying the ball into the opponents in-goal while only passing it backwards – is the same. Also the size of the pitch, the 80 min. length of a game, the shape of the ball, the off-side rule and the tackling and kicking techniques are exactly the same. But since 1895, when the northern English rugby clubs broke away from the London-based Rugby Football Union over a dispute about professionalism to form the Rugby Football League, the games have slowly but surely drifted apart.

Rugby League has over the years abolished contested rucks, mauls, line-outs, scrums and the rules of the game allow each team six carries at a time with the ball, before it has to be handed over (which rarely happens, because teams usually kick for territory or towards in goal on the last carry). However after every phase, i.e. an attacking player having been brought to ground, the defending team has to retreat 10 meters, allowing the attack to advance with easy hit ups in early phases.

All these rule changes allow for a more free-flowing, albeit somewhat more monotonous game. The fact that Rugby League is played with 13 players instead of the 15 players on the pitch in Union, means that an average game of League yields more tries. Those are worth 4 points in League and 5 in Union with the conversion worth 2 points in either game. Successful penalty kicks are worth 2 points in League and three in Union.

Due to the points scoring system, League scores are almost exclusively consisting of even numbers. Only drop goals are worth a solitary point, but a team would only try to score one if the game is in the balance and time is up. Therefore betting on an odd points difference or a team scoring a drop goal would be a more than risky proposition.

Also League games do not end in draws, overtime is added if a score is tied after 80 minutes, opposed to Union games that can end in a draw. The golden point rule employed in the Australian NRL League competition means that whoever scores first in overtime, wins the match. The 2015 final being the most prominent example of a game decided by a drop goal in overtime in favor of the Cowboys.

In Terms of popularity, Union is far more widespread globally with professional teams in many commonwealth countries plus Japan, France, Argentina, South Africa and a professional league being currently set up in the United States. On the other hand only the very popular Australian NRL and the English Super League are fully professional Rugby League competitions.

While in Union the pinnacle of the game is the world cup and to a lesser degree the Six Nations, League‘s most hyped game is the annual clash of the two biggest Australian states, New South Wales and Queensland, in their 3 game state of origin series. These three games are the biggest date on the Australian sporting calendar every year and therefore are also the most betted on games down under, with the most exotic prop bets available to bet on.

When betting on games later on in a season, a well informed punter should be aware that some Union and League competitions have a relegation and promotion system in place, while others do not. In the Australian NRL for example in a match up between a top four contender vying for a play off spot and a team that has nothing to play for anymore, since the threat of being relegated is not a consideration at all, an upset involving the underdog beating the top four side is even less likely than it normally would be.

Here‘s an overview of which League and Union competitions are a closed shop and which have a relegation / promotion system in place:

Quintessentially both games remain very similar, one might think of them as the two sides of the same coin. With players switching back and forth between the codes and countless examples of stars excelling in the 13 and 15 man game. However as fine margins decide about the outcome of games, a well informed punter should get thoroughly acquainted with the ins and outs of both games, before placing any bets on them. Following some of our tipsters, that publish well written analysis of games, might be a good way to get started.

Most Common Ways To Bet On Rugby

Match Betting

Match betting is, as it is with most sports, the most basic and popular bet with gamblers. While the odds available in match betting are not the most rewarding, they are often safer than the other markets on offer. It is seen time and time again that in rugby the underdogs do not win as often as they do in other team sports. The bigger teams are far more consistent and possess greater resources. Weaknesses, particularly in weaker team‘s defence, are far more easily exposed and exploited by better teams, than for example in soccer.

Another reason that match betting is such a popular market in rugby betting is due to the rarity of draws. For example, in the Pro12 league during the 2012-2013 season there were 135 matches played, only 3 of them ended with both teams level. It’s a common occurrence in rugby that games will have an overwhelming favourite, in these cases bookmakers will only offer what is known as a handicap market, which I will discuss below.

Handicap Betting

Handicap betting is another popular betting market, particularly due to its use in matches consisting of a strong favourite playing against a team that is considered to have very little chance of winning. Essentially in handicap betting, one team (the underdog) is given what is known as a ‘head start’ in terms of the number points scored. The odds offered are then altered to accommodate for these changes.

This may be difficult to understand at first and so the difference between a normal match bet and handicap bet is outlined in the example below:

Match Betting:
Western Force @ 2.60 vs Waratahs @ 1.50

Handicap Betting:
Western Force (+5.0) @ 1.90 vs Waratahs (-5.0) @ 1.90

The numbers above may seem difficult to understand to anyone new to betting, however they are easily explained. For the purpose of the example I have used decimal odds as I feel most people understand them. In the case of the normal match bet, if you were to place €10 on Waratahs to win, your potential returns would be €15.

Some gamblers may feel these odds are too low and decide that Waratahs will win by a considerable margin, this is where handicap markets are useful. For example, you can place €10 on the Waratahs to win while starting with a points deficit of 5 points. Simply put, Waratahs would need to win by 6 or more points.

As we can see, if the final result was Western Force 18 – 27 Waratahs, you would win because even if we were to take the 5 points from the total, Waratahs would still have scored more points. On the other hand if the result of this match was Western Force 18 – 21 Waratahs you would lose the bet as, even though you selected the correct winner, they did not win by a sufficient
margin.

Note that in the case of the second result (18-21), if you had bet on Western Force (+5.0) you would have won, betting on the underdog in such a manner is popular in games where the underdog may have been underestimated by bookmakers.

First/Last Try Scorer

This market is popular among gamblers due to its high reward on payouts. Generally backs and especially the wingers are the favourites to score the first try in rugby matches. However you must remember that with 30 players on the pitch at the beginning of a match the first try can come from anywhere and so you must be diligent in making your selection in this market. There have also been numerous forwards, who were known for their try-scoring prowess, even though overall that might be a rarity.

A similar market is that of the last try scorer. There is an even greater risk in this bet as it is sometimes difficult to know who will be on the pitch towards the end of a game. Outside backs (i.e. wingers and fullbacks) are rarely substituted unless they are injured and also count among the most likely try-scorers to begin with. Scrum-halves and front rowers on the other hand are almost always substituted in the second half of a rugby match. Therefore betting on them as the last try-scorer is not advisable.

Alternatively, you can opt to bet on there being no try scorer in a match, although it is rare, in difficult and scrappy games it is known to happen, particularly if the weather conditions are poor. Once the ball gets very slippery making handling difficult and the pitch very deep, defences almost always get the upper hand, and games tend to be more low scoring.

You can also bet on which team will score first. This market is slightly less rewarding than selecting an individual try scorer and usually corresponds with whoever is favourite for a particular match.

Total Points

Not the most popular market available, but one that is utilised nonetheless. Betting on how many points are scored in a match by both teams. Personally I tend to avoid this market due to the difficulty of predicting how many points will be scored. If you are keen on placing a bet like this I would recommend gambling on games where not many points are expected to be scored, this leaves less room for error. Matches in poor conditions are as already mentioned more often than not low scoring. Also there is a significant difference in terms of style of play between the northern and southern hemisphere. Games involving Australian or New Zealand teams almost always turn out to be higher scoring games.

First Scoring Play

This bet is simple and can be relatively easy to predict with the right research. Essentially you select what type of score the first points of the match will comprise of. It can be a try, penalty or drop-goal. Researching a team’s style of play and strengths can be a good indication of what type of score is likely to be chosen by a team looking to get there first points on the board. Sometimes teams need to achieve a four try bonus point, in order to either not get relegated or qualify for the play offs. In those kind of matches teams will turn down opportunities to go for goal and try to score tries instead. Also these matches often turn out to be higher scoring, as teams risk more in their plays.

All Blacks

Research

Research is so important to betting on any sport. I personally feel that it is even more important in rugby than in many other sports. Rugby is such a stringent game with a strict set of rules and team styles that are not as flexible as in other team sports. This eliminates the variables that sometimes cause bets to be lost. Poor refereeing decisions occur much more frequently in soccer than they do in rugby. Some teams for example have issues coping with a rush defence and are more likely to loose against teams employing that tactic. Other teams are historically very strong at home and therefore often upset bigger teams with their own public behind them. It is for reasons such as these that research is so important in betting on rugby matches.

Be wary of injuries. Rugby naturally has a higher number of casualties due to it being a high impact sport. Make sure you know who is playing and more importantly who isn’t. The starting line up and bench composition has to be published at least 24 hours in advance in rugby. That gives you a good opportunity to make some more research and adapt your strategy to the corresponding line ups. Teams missing their best players are noticeably weaker than when they are at full strength. Make sure you know the fly-halves. Fly halves are the players that can win a game almost single handedly, particularly in scrappy games with little or no flow in them. If a team is missing their first choice kicker, that can have a huge impact over the outcome of a game. Make sure you check whether the first choice kicker is going to play, and if not, whether the replacement is nearly as good.

Overall, in your research you need to familiarise yourself with team styles, players and form. As previously mentioned rugby is a sport that doesn’t spring too many surprises, even though huge upsets like the 50/1 underdog Japan beating South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

But generally rugby is a little easier to predict and anticipate results. I hope you found this article useful and I wish you luck with your betting.

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