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Nic Ladds 19th Mar 2009 - 17:11

Welsh victory won't quell Irish joy

Wales are at odds of 4/6 to take the deciding clash against 6/5 shots Ireland but it is as short as 1/5 in the betting that the Irish will still end up taking the Six Nations crown.

Pre-tournament favourites Wales have the luxury of facing Ireland in Cardiff in the final game of the tournament and they should be facing them having a better chance of lifting the title but for some lacklustre performances previously.

Warren Gatland has chopped and changed his side and is seems to have been to his and their downfall.

Wales were only just beaten by France but it should have been by a lot more and their performance against Italy last week was nothing short of awful and it needed a late Tom Shanklin try to spare their blushes and sneak a narrow win.

While Ireland have not been amazing, they have done enough to ensure victory in all four previous matches, even when they haven't played well and as a result, Wales can win the tournament but they will have to beat Ireland by 13 points or more.

Seeing as the handicap is set giving Ireland a three points head start at 10/11 with Wales also at odds of 10/11 giving up three points, you can see what a job Wales have on their hands.

You can therefore expect that Wales will come out trying to play attacking rugby while the Irish will defend as if their lives depended on it.

While the Welsh will try to play attacking rugby, they have not managed to play flowing rugby like everyone knows they can so far so why would this change against the miserly Irish defence?

Wales should win the race to 10 points at odds of 4/5 and we could well see the first half being the highest scoring half at even money as the opening stages are bound to be explosive while latter stages may become a dour battle with few points being clocked up. For those who fancy a free-scoring second half, it can be backed at 4/5 to be the highest scoring half.

Gatland has made eight changes to the side that flopped against Italy. Ryan Jones gets his place and the captaincy back, while the whole front-row is changed.

Significantly in the backs, Stephen Jones comes in for James Hook at fly-half while try-scoring hero Shanklin comes in for Jamie Roberts.

Hook can be backed at 16/1 to score the first try while Shanklin is 14/1 to cross the line first, and the same price to repeat his heroics of last week and score the last try.

Gavin Henson who is 16/1 in the betting to open the try-scoring comes in to the side and it is worth noting Wales have never lost to a northern hemisphere side when Henson has been in the starting line-up.

Ireland meanwhile make just three changes, the most surprising of which is man of the match last time Peter Stringer being replaced by Tomas O'Leary.

Jamie Heaslip also returns and he has managed two tries already so far and is 7/2 to score a try anytime during the game.

Luke Fitzgerald and Tommy Bowe are both 12/1 to go over first while Brian O'Driscoll has showed he's not lost any of his talent and is 14/1 to go over first and add to the three tries he has already scored.

A Welsh victory is likely but they will do extremely well to beat Ireland by the 13 points required which could make a winning margin to Wales of 1-5 points at 4/1 or 6-10 points at 11/2 appeal.

If you think the home side will run riot and in turn retain their crown then perhaps an alternative handicap of Wales -12 points at 10/3 is the bet for you?

Despite home advantage, it will take a real upset here fore Wales to beat Ireland by the points required for them to lift the championship.

Ireland would dearly love a Grand Slam but with a first victory for 24 years tantalizingly close, it is unlikely they will do anything more than frustrate the Welsh in to submission.

Jamie Heaslip to score anytime - 7/2
Wales to win by 6-10 points - 11/2

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