Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff; Date: March 12th, 2011
Coverage: Live on BBC1; Kick Off: 5.00pm
James Hook will return to the fly-half role when Wales host Ireland on Saturday and his role will be instrumental in deciding the outcome of the game.
Both Wales (50/1) and Ireland (33/1) still hold outside chances of winning the Six Nations, but in reality this is a battle for second/third place and history suggests Ireland hold the edge.
Four of the five Six Nations matches between these two sides at the Millennium Stadium have ended in an Irish win, but surprisingly Wales are made the favourites at 8/11.
Neither side has played to their true potential in this tournament and maybe it’s because Ireland just scraped a victory over Scotland a fortnight ago that they are as big as 11/10 to win.
It’s certainly going to be a close game in which the penalty count will be crucial, and with both teams conceding plenty of penalties thus far – Wales have conceded 38 to Ireland’s 37 – both James Hook and Ronan O’Gara will play crucial roles.
But the return of Leigh Halfpenny – he is 10/1 to get the first try – is a huge boost to the Welsh and the wingers long range kicking ability will also come in useful in a match that could come down to three points.
Four of the 11 Six Nations ties between the two have been settled by four points or less and on that basis, backing Wales at 6/5 to win despite a -4 handicap looks a better bet than backing Wales outright.
But Ireland will be dangerous and with eight wins over Wales in those 11 ties, look the better bet at 6/4 giving Wales a four point start.
A £25 stake on James Hook scoring a try, penalty, drop goal and a conversion against Ireland would return £1,025. New customers can sign up here for a free £25 bet.
Wales: L Byrne, L Halfpenny, J Roberts, J Davies, S Williams, J Hook, M Phillips; P James, M Rees (c), C Mitchell, B Davies, A Wyn Jones, D Lydiate, S Warburton, R Jones.
Replacements: R Hibbard, J Yapp, A Powell, J Thomas; D Peel, S Jones, M Stoddart.
Ireland: L Fitzgerald, T Bowe, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, K Earls, R O’Gara, E Reddan; C Healy, R Best, M Ross, D O’Callaghan, P O’Connell, S O’Brien, D Wallace, J Heaslip.
Replacements: S Cronin, T Court, L Cullen, D Leamy, P Stringer, J Sexton, P Wallace.