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How to win money betting on Rugby

Rugby offers plenty of opportunities for punters to profit. Markets range from straight match bets to handicap markets, first try scorer and first scoring play. Simon Mail takes a look at the different ways in which you can win by betting on what, to the outsider, can seem quite a confusing sport.

Formats and tournaments 

Rugby Union is divided up by club competitions and the more popular international game (followed by a much wider audience).
 
In the domestic game, the Aviva Premiership is the English top flight which has 12 sides competing for a place in the top four, leading to an end of season play-off mini-tournament. The top four Aviva Premiership sides clash in semi-finals with the top two awarded home advantage. The winners play each other at Twickenham to determine the champions.

This might seem a strange way of determining the winners but the play-off format is used because some the teams, (most recently Leicester Tigers) have been more affected over the years by players absent through representing their country at international level throughout the season.

Unlike in football, the rugby season continues while international matches take place so the end of season play-offs are viewed as the fairest way of deciding the title.

The Heineken Cup, which looks likely to be replaced by a new tournament next year, is the elite European competition. English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, French and Italian clubs compete in pools to try and advance to the last-eight knockout stage.

Arguably the biggest betting interest of the year comes in February when the Six Nations gets underway. Wales, the winner of the last two seasons, face competition from England, Ireland, Scotland, France and Italy. The nations play one match against each opponent to decide the overall winner. 

It's important to take into account the 'home draw' aspect of the Six Nations. Teams only play each other once, so the generated fixtures can be very important. For example, France are a hugely different proposition at their home stadium, the Stade de France, than they are on the road. So, the outright winner market on the Six Nations could be affected by which games a team has at their own stadium and which ties they face away from home.

The World Cup is held every four years and holders New Zealand will be strong favourites when they travel to England for the 2015 competition. 

Most popular markets 

Match Odds, Handicap bets, Winning Margin, First Scoring Play

General rules

Make sure you are up to speed with the competition rules

Some of the competitions have tried to encourage a more attacking game by awarding a bonus-point for scoring four tries in a game. While this does not take place in the Six Nations, the Premiership and Heineken Cup both adopt this and also hand out losing bonus points for sides beaten by seven points or less. 

This is significant because it will affect the scoring and is particularly relevant when betting on the Winning Margin market. If a team such as Northampton Saints are playing a struggling side then a bigger winning margin will be more likely, especially as they are likely to chasing a winning bonus point.

Take advantage of the handicap markets 

There are some incredibly one-sided matches in rugby with seven points on offer for a converted try along with three for a penalty or drop goal. Unlike in football, where the value of a goal is much greater, scoring is far more frequent. This means you will find extremely short priced odds such as England at 1.18 favourites at home when facing Argentina in the autumn internationals. 

To avoid these odds-on shots, handicap betting is a very popular in rugby. For this particular game, England to win with a 15 point handicap (effectively England needing to win by 16 points or more) was available at 2.0, and would have represented far better value given that England were always likely to win fairly comprehensively. In the event, England ran out 31-12 winners and would have delivered a winning bet.

Study the current and historical form of teams 

It goes without saying that, in rugby as in every sporting encounter, researching recent form and previous results can help give you an edge when it comes to placing bets. An example of this comes in the shape of London Wasps, who haven't lost at home to Leicester Tigers since 2007. So, despite the Tigers being a much better side overall throughout that period, it wouldn't be advisable to back them at Adams Park. 

There are also head-to-head results which can guide you. For example, although Wales are a good, solid international side, they've lost every match against South Africa and New Zealand under current coach Warren Gatland. 

Of course records are there to be broken, but looking back over previous meetings can often give you a strong indication of where your money should go. 

Take into consideration styles of play

Knowing the type of rugby a team tend to play can often point towards betting patterns worth adopting. If a side is renowned for their forward orientated game or defensive kicking strategy then tries could be in short supply. 

If you are presented with a game in which both teams play in this style, then tries really are likely to be at a premium and you're better off looking at backing Penalty in the First Scoring Play market, especially if the teams possess a reliable kicker. 

Other Markets

We've touched on a few of the markets available and the circumstances in which you could think about turning to them, but there are a couple more to mention.

First Try Scorer

Wingers are the most likely players to score tries. That is indisputable fact; they are there to finish off plays and around 70% of passing moves end with a winger. Wingers are the strikers of rugby.

They tend to be available at around 7.0 to score first, and provided you're not watching two aforementioned forward-oriented sides at work, the smart money goes on the wide men.

Any Time Try Scorer

Wingers, like strikers in football are the most likely to score tries. But unlike football, rugby try scorers are more likely to come from a variety of positions and methods rather than just via a striker in football. For example, forwards will occasionally position themselves among the backs and take part in passing moves, and they can also peel off of driving mauls to score. 

So backing a forward to score anytime at long odds can often prove to be a good bet, particularly flankers who tend to be dynamic runners and frequent ball carriers. The big men up front may not be likely to score first, but as the game gets more ragged and different tactics are employed, they can often get their fair share of the spoils.

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