Warren Ashurst picks out his best bets for the Rugby World Cup opener between France and New Zealand on Friday.
Les Bleus among the points
France go into their home World Cup having won their last three warm-up matches and with growing confidence they look to have a good chance of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time.
Fabien Galthie’s men have shown signs during the last couple of years that they are back on track, winning the Six Nations Grand Slam in 2022 and finishing runners-up to Ireland this year.
Les Bleus’ only defeat of the 2023 Six Nations campaign came in Dublin, while the points have been flowing for the flamboyant French squad.
Galthie has seen his side score 32+ points in their last eight matches, which includes a 41-17 success over Australia in late August.
France – who are 5/6 to score the first try on Friday – ran in four tries against the Wallabies, including a brace for winger Damian Penaud, while Thomas Ramos kicked 16 points in an impressive performance.
One area of concern though for the coach will be from a defensive perspective, with an average of 22 points scored against France in their last six matches.
That doesn’t make great reading when you’re preparing to face the All Blacks and they will hope a full house at the Stade de France can help rather than hinder their young squad.
New Zealand can bounce back when it matters
It’s been quite some time since New Zealand have been as low as fourth in the Rugby Union world rankings, but recent performances have been below their usual very high standards.
Ian Foster’s team suffered their biggest-ever defeat to South Africa, a 35-7 loss at Twickenham, a couple of weeks before the World Cup.
The All Blacks were down to 14-men against the Springboks and don’t forget, it was only a couple of months ago that New Zealand lifted the Rugby Championship Trophy for the third time in a row, after winning all three of their matches.
Richie Mo’unga was top points scorer in this year’s tournament and the Canterbury back is 28/1 to score a try and a drop goal in Friday’s opening game.
The Kiwis will feel they can use the expectation of the home crowd to their advantage and will look to put all the pressure on their Northern Hemisphere opponents with a quick start.
Although France won their last match up – back in November 2021 – the head-to-head stats certainly favour New Zealand, who have won nine of their last 10 meetings.
French fans will also still have nightmares about their last World Cup clash with the All Blacks, who ran out 62-13 winners when the sides met in Cardiff back in 2015.
New Zealand to win @ 1/1