England or Great Britain have never won the Rugby League World Cup and although the current England squad have qualified for the quarter-finals this time runners-up is best that can be expected because Australia look unbeatable. England are the second favourites to win this year’s tournament and should best Papua New Guinea in the last eight but beating the Aussies at home in a potential final looks beyond them. The four quarter finals should go to form.
There are upsets in sport and teams that defy the odds but Samoa are not worth backing even at 33/1 to beat Australia in the first quarter-final on Friday. Tonga and New Zealand should also progress but the uncompetitive nature of the first knockout round is reflected in the fact that acca on the four favourites returns just over 1/2 Some would say a 50% return on investment for four bankers is worth the risk but the better betting opportunities could be in the handicap markets.
Handicap betting is fraught with danger in any sport. The purpose of these markets is to attract two-way money when there is a big favourite and underdog in events that have three outcomes, including the draw. Half point handicaps eliminate the tie for betting purposes and they come become binary bets. England will beat Papua New Guinea by more than 16.5 points or they will not. A handicap of 16 points brings the tie into play in a three-way market.
England won’t be too bothered about beating their opponents by 15 or 17 points. That margin represents a good win and comfortable progress to the last four. If you had bet on England -16.5 those two points would be crucial. It could come down to converting a late try but the kicker is not too concerned because his side have won the match. It’s agonising when you need two more points for the winning side to see a missed slap dash effort to add the extra points.
Bookmakers will offer in-play betting on the four quarter finals so handicap markets are updated during each match. If a side have done and dusted a fixture they sometimes take their foot off the gas. If England lead Papua New Guinea by 20 points at half time they are unlikely to double their advantage to 40 points by the end of the match. The handicap line will change so it could be worth backing the underdogs on the assumption they will do better in the second half than the first.
Motivation and commitment are key in a physical sport like rugby league. A 10% drop in effort can affect the scoring so the favourites could struggle to cover the updated spread. These circumstances provide potentially profitable betting opportunities. Alternatively you could oppose all four favourites on the handicap. The usual odds are 10/11 for each option which means a four timer pays over 12/1. You just want to hope the bet does not come down to a meaningless conversion at the end of a match.