Free Picks: New Zealand vs. Argentina 2013 Rugby Championship

Richard O'Hagan

Wednesday, September 4, 2013 6:37 PM GMT

The All Blacks take on a struggling Puma side in a game which they are the hottest of favourites to win. Is there any hope for the visitors?

Don't forget to check out our Australia vs. South Africa match preview, part of Round 3 of the 2013 Rugby Championship!

One of the surprises of this year’s Rugby Championship has been just how strong the New Zealand side have been. That might sound like an odd thing to say about the current world champions, but the perception before this tournament was that the significantly younger Australian and South African squads would be more than a match for Steve Hansen’s team.

That hasn’t proved to be the case at all. The All Blacks were rampant in their opening game in Australia, taking advantage of some poor defending to run in score after score. They then had the better of a lower scoring game in the return fixture the following week. Now they have a visit from Argentina to deal with.

The Pumas are demonstrably the weakest team in the competition this year. In one respect that is not unexpected. It took Italy many years to adjust to the rigors of the Six Nations and this, the southern hemisphere version of that contest, is if anything an even tougher prospect. However, Argentina are routinely regarded as one of the best dozen sides in the world and sides that good shouldn’t be shipping 95 points over two games against South Africa.

The fear for the Argentines is that this game will turn out to be something of a non-contest. The markets certainly think that it is, with Betfair going as long as 43/1 on their chances of victory. New Zealand, meanwhile, are as short as 1/66. These are extraordinary odds for a two team contest, and yet it is hard to say that they are skewed, at least not on the basis of the two sides’ form thus far.

If anyone was thinking that the All Blacks might go a bit easy on weaker opponents, then they don’t know Hansen very well and didn’t see his side thrash a below-strength French side three times back in June. Veteran fly half Dan Carter is recalled, and the only two missing members of their first choice XV, Ma’a Nonu and Owen Franks, are both injured.

For the Pumas, there is the relief of knowing that captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe has at last been passed fit after missing the South Africa games with a calf injury. Flanker Pablo Montera will be pleased to have been cleared of eye-gouging in the last game and to have avoided suspension, but his back row colleague Leonardo Senatore misses the rest of the tournament after being banned for biting. Veteran centre Felipe Contepomi, who captained the side in Lobbe’s absence, is dropped to the bench as Coach Graham Henry – himself a former All Black coach – tries to find a combination to test the hosts.

The important question, though, is where can we find value sports picks in a market where New Zealand are so dominant. The best option is to try some of the less favoured markets. That means looking at something like the first scoring play market. With Carter back on board the All Blacks’ goal kicking is improved, to a New Zealand penalty at 17/10 with Paddy Power looks a good rugby pick here.

You can also make a little money on the position of the first try scorer. New Zealand have scored heavily through their back three, so a bet on it being a winger or full back will make you a small profit, with Paddy Power offering 6/4 betting odds on that.

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