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Current champions Ireland are unsurprisingly strong favourites to open their 2010 Six Nations campaign with a win when they face Italy in the first match of the tournament
Ireland are 1/33 with Stan James to get off to a winning start this afternoon (14:30 GMT)Following an unbeaten autumn series, skipper Brain O’Driscoll (10/1 with Blue Square to score the first try) and his side should be looking for a comfortable win against the side who are 1/2 favourites (Victor Chandler) for the wooden spoon. Even though Italy, who are 16/1 with bet365 to win this game, are without their captain and one genuine world class player in No. 8 Sergio Parisse, they still possess probably the most feared scrum in the tournament. Much of this down to veteran prop Castro Giovanni, who is third on his country’s Six Nations top try scorer list and is 100/1 (Paddy Power) to touch down first.
But Italy still lack an outside half to dictate their play and reliably land their kicks. Former Aussie rugby league player Mark Gower is the latest in a long line to try and fill the shoes of the much missed Diego Dominguez.Irish rugby is on a high at the moment following last seasons’ Grand Slam, a November win against South Africa and a European title for Leinster last May. With the majority of their key players fit and in form only a brave punter or patriotic Italian should consider opposing Ireland - the question isn’t whether Ireland will win but by how much.
In the handicap betting Italy have a 20 point start with both sides at Evens (Victor Chandler). It may be worth being a bit braver and looking at the alternative handicap betting and backing Ireland at 5/2 with a 30 point handicap (Ladbrokes). Another interesting bet is the 13/10 offered by Blue Square that the first half will be the highest scoring half. With Ireland facing France a week later, coach Declan Kidney may well be tempted to push for a big start so he can rest some his big guns in the second half.Winger Tommy Bowe has scored in every Heineken Cup match he has played this season and is 8/1 (Boylesports) to score the first try of the match.
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