The Queensland Reds represent a step up in quality of opposition for the British and Irish Lions, and a repeat of last weekend’s 69-17 shellacking of Western Force can been dismissed out of hand.
The Lions are 1/12 to prevail, with Queensland a 7/1 shot to cause an upset.
While the Force – Australia’s lowest-ranked side in Super Rugby this term – fielded an under-strength side, the Reds have announced a strong line-up, replete with international talent. Nine of their starting fifteen have been capped internationally, however it should be noted that six of their squad are unavailable by virtue of being in Wallaby coach Robbie Deans’ initial 25-man squad for the Test series – a fact that should really put the outright result beyond doubt.
The mercurial Quade Cooper – whose place in that squad hangs in the balance – represents the home side’s most outstanding threat, and the extent to which he is able to impose himself on the proceedings will be the key to the encounter. The Lions should prevail regardless, but a strong display from Cooper should have a huge bearing on the margins at play.
Queensland were the last Australian provincial side to beat the Lions, back in 1971, however the hosts have dropped two of their last three in Super XV, and pose a far less dangerous proposition without Wallaby scrum half Will Genia or winger Digby Ioane.
The handicap is stated at +/-17, with the Lions 10/11 to win against that deficit.
Ewen McKenzie’s men may be the better bet on this line, as despite the inevitably strong line-up this still represents something of an experiment – as ever in the early stages of a Lions tour – for the tourists, who are essentially playing in order to assess potential combinations for the Test side.
Just one of eight visiting sides have won at Suncorp Stadium this term, though the Reds have not recorded a winning margin of over 15 points here, a record which should not intimidate Gatland’s side.
Starting fly half Owen Farrell’s goal kicking is arguably the strongest aspect to his game, so much depends on the discipline of the home side in regards to remaining competitive in the fixture.
The Lions are 2/1 to win by a margin of between 11-20 points, the favoured selection in that market, while 21-30 can be taken at 5/2.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing