Rugby League Four Nations Preview
The Rugby League Four Nations gets underway this Saturday morning live on BBC 1 with England looking to cause an upset by upstaging the more fancied Australia and New Zealand.
The 2010 series is the second of three Four Nations series planned before the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, with the venues rotating between the Northern & Southern hemispheres. The competition is in a "mini-league" format, each team will play each other once, with the top two teams making the final.
Australia (4/11) are clear favourites to retain the trophy they won in 2009 when beating England 46-16 in the final. After 60 minutes of that game the result was still in the balance but a late barrage of tries sealed the victory for the Kangaroos. Home advantage this time around means it's difficult to see them not making the final at the very least and they will be the side to beat.
Darren Lockyer is the captain and is a class act. He will be looking to put on a big performance in what could be one of his last major international tournaments. The 33-year old is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the game, he holds the record for most games and most tries for the national side. He is 12/1 to score the first try when they face Papa New Guinea on Sunday morning.
2008 World Cup winners New Zealand (5/2) look the most likely danger to the Aussies. Their success in the World Cup final was one of the greatest shocks in the history of the competition but they have been improving and a win the time around would not be a massive shock.
The pivotal game in terms of whether New Zealand will reach the final could be the first match, when they face England at Westpac Stadium, Wellington at 8am on Saturday morning. The winner of that game should be confident of finishing in the top two of the group and therefore making the final.
England (10/1) played a warm-up game against the New Zealand Maoris last weekend in which they raced into an 18-0 lead before being pegged back to draw 18-18. They are 17/5 to upset the home side and 10/11 to win with a fourteen point start. I would back them on the handicap.
The key man for the English is likely to be the Super League Young Player of the Year, Sam Tomkins. The Wigan Warriors star will need to perform if England are to hold out any hope, he is 12/1 to score the first try on Saturday.
Papa New Guinea (100/1) are the rank-outsiders this year and it seems unlikely they will be able to muster a win against their more experienced opponents. They qualified for this tournament by winning the 2009 Pacific Cup, beating the Cook Islands 42-14 in the final.
They open their campaign on Sunday against holders Australia and they are a massive 20/1 to win. A more realistic bet is on the handicap market which gives them a fifty point start. They are sure to be up for the first game and that could be a worthwhile bet at odds of 10/11.