England’s error-strewn display against South Africa ensured the Red Rose’s win drought against the Springboks reached the six-year mark, while the Irish continue to look every bit Europe’s most assured rugby union nation.
As the wolves gather outside Stuart Lancaster’s door with less than 12 months to go until the World Cup gets underway on English soil, Ireland’s serene progress under Joe Schmidt reached a new high during the Autumn Internationals thanks to a compelling Test victory over Heyneke Meyer’s tourists.
Ireland’s odds for the World Cup are nonetheless out at 10/1, with England 7/2 shots to conquer the assembled nations, despite coming up short to both South Africa and New Zealand during a bruising two-week spell.
Supporters of English rugby can be buoyed somewhat by the margins of defeat, which was also the case when touring New Zealand in the summer, where only a point separated the sides in Dunedin.
But if the all-conquering, All Blacks, are the benchmark, then the 19-point lead which Schmidt’s Ireland held over them during the 2013 autumn internationals – before going down to an overtime conversion – is still the hardest the World Cup favourites have been pushed since their unbeaten run began.
Boasting Munster’s number nine Conor Murray supplying the ammo for the likes of Jonny Sexton in the back row, Ireland are chock-full of skilful handlers and quick runners.
Meanwhile, a pack driven on by skipper and man-mountain Paul O’Connell reduced the South Africans to only 15 points, which speaks volumes about their ability to defend their 22.
Limiting the Protea to just one penalty in the 80 minutes is such a telling factor when it comes to top-level rugby, with discipline an area that England simply have to address if they harbour serious World Cup claims.
Although Australia lie in wait next for Ireland, after Georgia were swatted aside 49-7, the 9/4 about a successful Six Nations defence looks a cracker of a bet at this stage.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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