As predictions go, the rugby bet which favoured the lengthily-priced underdog used to be rated a no-hoper, a chance to meekly hand over your stake to a bookmaker in the knowledge that he’s likely to enjoy himself with your money. However, the advent of the internet has ensured that betting on rugby has become much more interesting as bookmakers have introduced handicap markets to effectively ‘level the playing field’ in favour of the outsider.
In times past, rugby betting in the UK was little more than a chance to back one team to win by a certain number of points as the identity of the likely winner was often a foregone conclusion.
Nowadays, rugby bets can still be as straightforward as selecting the number of points by which one side will win, or they can be much more involved – especially when predictions regarding the impact of one side’s handicap are taken into account. Moreover, it is fair to say that as more tournaments, such as the Heineken Cup and World Cup have expanded, so too has online rugby betting.
Bookmakers now offer prices on all leading matches as well as on major tournaments such as the World Cup – in both codes.
The rugby league World Cup may seem a long way off, but Australia are already ensconced as the 2/9 favourites, while New Zealand are the 5/4 favourites to be crowned world champions in the 15-man version of the game next year.
“A bet on rugby used to be little more than a bit of fun,” observes one well-known rugby writer, “but the internet provides rugby-goers and cannier punters with a genuine opportunity to take a bookmaker on, especially in handicap markets where disparities in ability are not always adequately reflected in the size of the advantage given to one team.”
Online rugby betting has proved extremely popular in the Heineken Cup where punters have regularly unearthed value. For example, in one of the tournament’s forthcoming semi finals, favourites Toulouse are 4/9 to beat Leinster. However, it could be argued that the rugby bet which holds greater commercial appeal is the one where Toulouse can be backed at 10/11 to win – when kicking off with a six-point handicap.
Handicap markets make rugby betting considerably more profitable.
In the above example, putting £25 on Toulouse to win would return £36.11, a profit of £11.11. Staking the same £25 on at their handicap price of 10/11 would yield a return of £47.73, a profit of £22.73, more than double that available in the regular win market.
In keeping with so many other sports, online rugby betting enjoys a surge in numbers when the game’s largest tournaments reach their denouement. Like football, punters enjoying a bet on rugby have the chance to select a game’s first try-scorer or the method by which the opening points will be scored. In other words, rugby betting and the opportunities for the shrewd predictor of outcomes become more widespread during the closing stages of high-profile tournaments, but this is changing.
During rugby union’s regular Guinness Premiership season and rugby league’s Super League campaign, the volume of online rugby betting has increased severalfold in recent years. According to one bookmaker, betting on rugby, while nowhere near as popular as football, has nonetheless become an acceptable part of going to a match. “Rugby bets used to account for a relatively small part of our business,” he says, “but as the game’s appeal has broadened, so rugby betting, particularly in the UK, has shown a marked increase.” A look at the available markets probably explains why.