Ahead of the action in the Premiership, PRO14 and Super Rugby, we take a look at the best bets from three of the games taking place this weekend.
Northampton Saints v Bristol Bears
Two sides that have ambitions of finishing in the Premiership top-four face off at Franklin’s Gardens on Sunday in what is a big game for both.
It has no doubt been a frustrating couple of weeks for the Saints, who succumbed to promoted London Irish in their previous encounter. That result prevented them from overtaking Exeter Chiefs at the summit and also brought them closer to the chasing pack.
Bristol were one of those teams to benefit from Northampton’s slip-up after defeating Gloucester in late January to move up to fifth in the table. They had endured a run of four matches without a win, but that result – and performance – was hugely impressive.
Pat Lam’s men were much more like the outfit that overcame title favourites Exeter in mid-November and the Bears’ boss will expect a similar display this weekend.
They are not necessarily fancied by the bookmakers, with the hosts 2/5 at Bet365 and BetVictor, but that means a price of 23/10 (Paddy Power and Betfair) is worth a punt.
Scarlets v Edinburgh
This is the big game of the weekend in the PRO14 and incredibly difficult to call, particularly with both sides short of key players due to the Six Nations.
Interestingly, they occupy the top-two positions in Conference B having garnered identical records of seven victories and three defeats, while the recent form of the respective teams is similar.
The Scots have been excellent in the league over the past five games, winning four of them, but they face a squad that have emerged victorious in their last two domestic encounters.
Brad Mooar’s men also boast a four-and-two win-loss record from their previous six PRO14 contests and they duly go into the clash with confidence.
However, the reverse fixture saw Richard Cockerill’s outfit dominate as they went away with a comfortable 46-7 triumph. Edinburgh will hope for a repeat but the result on Saturday will ultimately depend on how the fringe players step up.
The bookmakers have the Scarlets as narrow favourites at 8/13 with Bet365, Betfair and BoyleSports, which shows how tight this game should be.
They probably think that home advantage will play a significant factor in Llanelli, given how much of an unknown quantity the two sides are, which means that the visitors are slight outsiders at 6/4 with William Hill, Unibet and Betfred.
Jaguares v Reds
This perhaps isn’t the biggest match in the southern hemisphere this weekend, but it is the most interesting from a betting perspective.
Brad Thorn’s Reds are seen as huge outsiders by the bookies, with Unibet having them as long as 24/5 to win, and there are factors which count against them, primarily the travel.
The encounter in Buenos Aires marks their third away game in a row to start the season. The contests have also taken place in three different countries with the squad travelling from Australia to South Africa and then to Argentina over successive weeks.
Having gone down to the Brumbies and the Lions in their opening two matches, the Queensland-based outfit may well be written off in some quarters, but that would be unfair on this talented squad.
Thorn’s charges may well be inexperienced, which could have contributed to the narrow defeats they have already suffered, but the team are playing well.
The set-piece, with Taniela Tupou to the fore, has been strong, while there is plenty of pace and creativity in the backline, which means they will be a threat to the Jaguares, who are reeling after going down to the Hurricanes’ late show in Round Two.
Despite that loss, the 2019 losing finalists are 1/7 with various companies to claim their second win of the campaign, but do not discount the visitors and they are worth a punt.