There is so much rugby this weekend of Six Nations bets last week, punter Neal Hoogwerf sets his eyes on the opening of Super Rugby Aotearoa as well as the Six Nations and the second round of Super Rugby AU.
Let’s hope for another full house.
Hurricanes v Blues
Saturday 27 February – 08:05
Saturday rugby starts in Wellington where the Hurricanes host last seasons runner-up, the Auckland Blues. Pre-season departures have seen the Hurricanes stalwart TJ Perenara heading off to Japan on a double season sabbatical. The Blues ended the preseason unbeaten having seen off the Chiefs and Crusaders.
The Hurricanes have traditionally dominated this fixture having beaten the Blues in five of the last six meetings at Sky Stadium, with the solitary loss occurring in the inaugural season of Super Rugby Aotearoa in 2020.
Recent form suggests that the Blues are undervalued on the road after they have beaten the handicap in seven of their last eight fixtures. Generally, choice fixtures appear to be a tricky pick on paper, however having had a firm look at this fixture, it’s tricky to side against the Auckland side.
Brumbies vs Waratahs
Saturday 27 February – 10:45
The Brumbies kicked off their campaign with a resounding victory away to the Force in Perth. It was predicted to be a close affair, however, the Canberra outfit managed to gain early ascendancy in the set-piece battle to ultimately strangle the Force. The Waratahs will be looking to improve on their derby horror-show, having succumbed to a 41-7 loss at the hands of derby rivals Queensland.
The Brumbies will always be favoured considerably priced at home given their recent results and it’s difficult to suggest otherwise. The Brumbies haven’t lost to the Waratahs on home surf in four years and with an injury-ravaged Waratahs side, it doesn’t look like this hoodoo is going to end anytime soon.
The Waratahs have struggled for consistency in selection and this has reflected in their recent performances on the road. I’ll be leaning away from historical results and hoping for a more inspired performance from New South Wales in covering the generous double-digit spread.
Italy v Ireland
Saturday 27 February – 16:15
Italy have their second fixture at home after mustering up a courageous performance in going down to England 41-17 at Twickenham. It was a spirited fightback from the Azzurri after they melted down into a record defeat at home against France the previous week.
Ireland head on the road having recorded their first home loss against France in 10 years. In defence of the home side, they were facing the strongest French side to date with mercurial half-back Antoine du Pont orchestrating a masterful away victory. Coach Andy Farrell has rung the changes while handing a start to exciting back Jordan Larmour.
This handicap seems well placed with the Irish being deserved heavy favourites against the measly Italians. I believe that the Franco Smith coached Italians will have a trick or two up their sleeve so I’ll be taking a speculative play on the home side to cover.
Wales v England
Saturday 28 February – 18:45
Wales head home to the Principality stadium having recorded a shock 25-24 victory away to Scotland two weeks ago. This is a crucial match for the complexion of the 2021 Six Nations. A loss for England effectively rules out their title chances while a loss for Wales gives France a significant buffer on top of the ladder as the game has been postponed.
Wales have had a decent Six Nations, having beaten Ireland and Scotland to date. Form suggests that Wayne Pivac has managed to ignite a spark amongst this Welsh side, with key players having stepped up in the set-piece and midfield battle. England continue their barren run against the spread having gone into double digits without beating a handicap.
It seems as if Eddie Jones is struggling to get the best out of his England stars and question marks have been raised regarding his continued underperformance in the buildup to the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Only one of the last seven games between these teams in Wales has resulted in an England win by more than five points and I think the hosts have enough in them in keeping this fixture close. Don’t be surprised if Wales upset the favourites here.