Rocky can help Baa-Baas rock Wallabies
Bookmakers William Hill have made Australia strong 1/5 favourites for what should be a highly entertaining affair against the 10/3 Barbarians in Sydney this weekend.
Because of the regular changes in personnel that a guest side like the Barbarians inevitably brings these matches are notoriously difficult for odds compilers to weigh up.
Will a bunch of players, no matter how classy they are, thrown together for such short spells, actually gel into a quality cohesive unit to shake a side as good as the Wallabies?
Well with betting the clues are usually to be found in the odds and that 1/5 tells us just what the rugby judges at William Hill believe.
Australia have won their last six matches against the Barbarians, including an 18-11 win at Twickenham in December so if you want an historical take on things there you have it.
In fact for a more accurate insight here's the Australia v Barbarians results since the mid 80s.
1984 - Australia 37 Barbarians 30 Cardiff
1988 - Australia 40 Barbarians 22 Cardiff
1992 - Australia 30 Barbarians 20 Cardiff
1996 - Australia 39 Barbarians 12 Twickenham
2001 - Australia 49 Barbarians 35 Cardiff
2008 - Australia 18 Barbarians 11 Twickenham
Not much to raise the morale of Barbarians´ punters there on first inspection we might argue.
I think of past Baa-Baa games and I can't help being drawn to spine tingling recollections of that try against the All Blacks.
Oh those Phil Bennett side steps, the high tackle on JPR Williams that thrilling length of the field passing move through the softest of hands, finished off by a rapier like surge from Gareth Edwards. (For a video of the try see the very bottom of this article.)
If we get to see anything half as good as that we are certainly in for a rare treat on Saturday.
And if we are to take the comments of Baa-Baa fly-half Luke McAlister as a pointer we could well be.
"We've got a pretty laidback attitude towards the game. We're going to play Barbarians style and throw the ball around, have a bit of fun.
"There's no real pressure on us to win or lose, obviously we want to win, but there's more pressure on Australia. We'll just go out and have fun and enjoy ourselves."
I like the sound of the All Black's patter, especially the bit about pressure.
Pressure causes nerves and nerves can create mistakes and can often inhibit the performance of a team. Hmmm. Could that 10/3 be a cracking bet? Certainly if the Baa-Baas get off on the front foot the 10/11 that Hills offer to the visitors with an 11 point start could take some beating.
This is a crucial game for the Wallabies and they will be desperate to build confidence ahead of their Tests against Italy, France and then the Tri-Nations (William Hill will have all the betting on those) so there could definitely be a touch of edginess in their early exchanges.
Wallaby coach Robbie Deans appears to have opted for a more conservative squad for this game. No Lote Tuqiri and burgeoning teenage talent James O'Connor who kicked three goals in the Wallabies´ Twickenham win is left on the bench.
The Baa-Baas warmed up for this with a 33-26 win over England last week but it should be noted that the win was achieved against an England side minus its British & Irish Lions.
However, that game will have been extremely useful exercise for the Baa-Baas in terms of continuity and of course confidence from winning so I expect an even better performance against the Wallabies.
I'm talking myself into that 10/3 here because I'm convinced the Baa-Baas are going to give the Wallabies a really tough time of it.
A key man for me will be Leinster´s Baa-Baa Rocky Elsom - certainly one of Australia's best back-row forwards of recent times who goes up against his old team-mates with a few points to prove to coach Deans.
Alongside fellow Aussie and Baa-Baa skipper Phil Waugh and Jerry Collins that's a highly mobile, powerful and experienced back-row that will bring a fast-flowing, seamless link between forwards and backs.
And throw in back-rower Martin Corry (named on the bench with Serge Betsen) who makes this his last ever game of top class rugby and you have a formidable set of loose forwards who can give those 1/5 favs something to really think about.
I'm going to have a little dabble on the Baa-Baas with that 11 point start.
The action gets underway at 10:30 on Saturday morning and William Hill will be offering a wide range of in-play betting opportunities via the betlive service.