The Wallabies begin their Spring Tour of Europe at Twickenham on Saturday when they take on England.
This will be the first time in 7 months that the English side will be at full strength, the last time being against Wales in the 6 Nations back in March, a game that they lost. They did have a 2 match tour of Argentina in June, but it was with a second string side as all of their big guns were touring Australia on the Lions tour. The Wallabies have won 3 of their last 4 matches played at Twickenham, but although their form has been scratchy this year, there was big improvement shown in their last 2 matches against Argentina and New Zealand.
So it all points towards a potential win for the visiting side this week. England opened at $1.57 with Australia at $2.40, but although most of the early money was small, it was predominantly for the Wallabies. The prices are currently $1.60 and $2.30, with a line set at 4 points. The Wallabies have just come of a series playing against New Zealand and South Africa, the 2 best sides in the world, so this is their big opportunity to beat what is arguably an underdone English side.
Australia and New Zealand both won their opening World Cup games, and while neither was overly impressive, they would have their eyes on building towards the finals of the Cup rather than going too hard too early. The minnows on the other hand probably would have gone in with a different approach as every game for them is a final, and the early results have shown that. As of Wednesday this week there had been 6 games, 5 of which had been won by favourites, and only 2 of those had covered the line.
The big shock in those matches was the 26-24 win by Scotland over Tonga. The Scots went in as despised outsiders at $7.00 and were getting 18.5 points start on the line, and outsiders covering the lines in the first round of these competitions is something that has happened before. Lines can mover erratically in the first couple of rounds, and we saw that in the New Zealand v Samoa game on Monday. Samoa opened at +38.5 in the initial market but the line closed at 34.5. The Kiwi’s won 42-24, so those on the plus covered easily. The USA play the Cook Islands in tomorrow’s game and there has been plenty of money for the Cook Islands to cover their line, which has moved from -10.5 out to -11.5. The next 3 games to follow feature the tournament favourites but with all looking to be one sided affairs, the focus will be on the big lines.
Australia have shortened from $1.40 into $1.33 to win the title ahead of New Zealand at $4.00, with England out to $13 (from $9.00) after going down to the Kangaroos.
A 77 man field will be lining up for the WGC HSBC Championship in Shanghai this week. This will be the 9th running of the event at the Sheshan International GC since its inception in 2004, but it was played last year at Mission Hills where Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy did battle on Monday of this week. Rory will be on the quick back-up and has been installed as the $14 favourite, and showed by his win over Woods that he is regaining some form. Having said that punters aren’t completely convinced as several behind him in the betting have attracted more interest. Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson share the second line of betting at $17, and a look at Mickelson’s previous form in this event suggests he is the one to beat. Mickelson tied for 2nd last year behind Ian Poulter at Mission Hills but he has won this event twice at the course, in 2007 and 2009. Stenson has had a stellar year but has had scans this week on a wrist, not an ideal injury for a golfer. Martin Kaymer won in 2011 and is another who has shown a return to form recently, and is next in line at $19, just ahead of Keegan Bradley at $23. Jordan Spieth (Rookie of the Year) and Francesco Molinari (winner 2010) have been backed at $31 and $34 respectively, while there has been a sprinkling of money for Brett Rumford at $67.
The NBA season begins this week with the Miami Heat aiming for a three-peat of championships. With their superstar collective of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, Miami has shortened marginally from $3 to $2.75 but there has been a fair spread of money coming in for a number of teams. The San Antonio Spurs ($11) went within an inch of knocking off Heat in the NBA Finals last season but it will take plenty of man management to get their ageing roster through another season. Houston opened at $15 but is in to $11 with man mountain Dwight Howard joining James Harden, while another Western Conference outfit, Golden State - featuring Aussie Andrew Bogut - has also been popular after their surprise playoff run last season. The Warriors have been $31 into $19, and we expect followers of Bogut to back the Warriors every time they play. The best value, though, is surely the Oklahoma City Thunder ($7). Only a season-ending injury to star point guard Russell Westbrook in the playoffs prevented them from reaching the finals and with Kevin Durant ($4.50) the only man capable of challenging ‘King James’($2.25) for league MVP, OKC looks primed to return to the big show again.
After three straight losses, three-time reigning NBL champions the New Zealand Breakers have wasted no time in their search to find a winning formula. Gone is import Darnell Lazare with two-time championship winner Gary Wilkinson slotting back in to the Breakers' line-up after playing in Puerto Rico and Estonia last season. New Zealand is equal-second favourite in the Futures market alongside Adelaide, but Perth ($2.35) has easily been the most impressive side in the opening rounds.
The 36ers are back at home for Sunday's televised game on Ten against the Sydney Kings. Adelaide split its road double last weekend, fighting back from 11 points down at the start of the fourth term to knock off previously unbeaten Cairns on Friday night, before going down to a Chris Goulding-inspired Melbourne on Sunday. Sydney is 1-2 but both losses have come against the seemingly unstoppable Wildcats. The battle in the middle will be the key with former US College standout Andrew Ogilvy facing off against Sixers star Daniel Johnson. If those two cancel each other out then the home side should have more scoring threats across the court and get the victory.
Sebastian Vettel wrapped up his fourth Drivers Championship last week in India, and seems right on target to overtake Michael Schumacher’s record of 7 titles. That was Vettel’s 6th win in a row this season, and while many may think that he may be less competitive now that he has won the title, think again. Vettel is keen on records, and if he can win the 3 remaining races of the season that will equal the record of 9 in a row.
The F1’s are on the quick back-up again this week in Abu Dhabi, and Vettel and Mark Webber completely dominate the market. Webber was going to be in the finish last week before again encountering gear-box troubles, and has opened this week at $4.00 with Vettel at $1.42. This will be the 4th time that the F1’s have been to Abu Dhabi and although Vettel won the first two races in 2009 and 2010, he hasn’t had much luck since. He punctured on the 1st lap in 2011 and wound up in 3rd place last year after starting from the back of the grid. With only 3 races to go, Webber is going well enough to get a win and if Vettel slips up at all, Webber can definitely get that win before he moves on from Formula 1. Romain Grosjean ($13) finished 3rd last week and has some admires to cause an upset as does Lewis Hamilton ($17) who won here in 2011 and qualified fastest last year before crashing out.
The motoGP title is still alive and well with only one race remaining this season.
Valencia will host the season finale the weekend after this, and while Marc Marquez is $1.15 to win the title, Jorge Lorenzo ($5.00) can mathematically still win as well. It is simple for Lorenzo, win in Spain and Marquez must finish 4th or better. So the pressure will be on both, Lorenzo has to go for broke, and Marquez has to stay aboard his bike!
Lorenzo won in Japan on Sunday, and while Marquez had been favourite all week at around $2.00, he was displaced by Lorenzo at $2.25 after Lorenzo qualified fastest. Marquez ($2.35 second pick) had his chances to beat Lorenzo but simply wasn’t good enough, with Dani Pedrosa ($4.50) finishing in 3rd place. The market for the race in Valencia will open later this week.
With only 3 races remaining in the race for the Sprint Cup, Matt Kenseth has joined Jimmie Johnson at the top of the table on 2294 points. Jeff Gordon has moved to 2267 points after winning at Martinsville last week, and must be rated a chance still, as is also Kevin Harvick who is only 1 point behind Gordon. Kenseth was runner-up to Gordon ($8.00) in Martinsville, while Johnson, who started as the hot $2.70 favourite, finished right on their heels in 5th position.
Racing returns to Texas this week where Johnson, Kenseth and Gordon have all won previously. Johnson has a couple of wins on the circuit and has been installed as the $4.50 favourite ahead of Kenseth at $6.00, while Gordon is an $11 chance. Kyle Busch won the race held in Texas earlier in the season and is well in commission at $8.00.