The Punter: Ireland can be best of Six
All of Ireland was dancing a jig after that magnificent gutsy victory over Australia in rugby's World Cup.
Following a winless pre-tournament warm-up campaign and a less than convincing display against the USA, the Irish went into the Aussie game with a 13 point handicap start in the betting markets. Understandable as Ireland had only won one of their last eight clashes and were beaten in four previous World Cup meetings.
But what a battling display which now puts Ireland very much in the van to top Group C.
In fact, it will be a disaster if they don't with only Russia and Italy standing in the way of four wins on the bounce and thus, confining Australia to the runner-up spot and at the same time, setting up a potential quarter-final meeting with the Welsh, unless South Africa have different ideas.
There's still a lot of rugby to be played of course, but taking on the Welsh, England, Scotland or France, appeals more than going down the other pathway which has South Africa and the 8-15 favourites New Zealand lying in wait.
All in all, it looks like a northern v southern hemisphere finale in Auckland on October 23 and it would not be surprising to see England make a third final in a row.
A win over the Scots will take them into the quarters for a virtually certain meeting with the French and the qualifiers facing Ireland or Wales in the penultimate stage. Just imagine England and Ireland fighting it out for that final place.
It all points to an interesting market concerning which of the Six Nations will go furthest. The English and French are joint-favourites at 15-8 with Ireland on 3-1 and Wales at 9-2. The Scots are quoted at 100-1 and Italy on 250-1.
Ireland who are now only 4-1 to reach the final; 18-1 to lift the trophy and 5-1 to contest the final against the host nation.
The best recommended bet is to take that 3-1 about Ireland being the top Six Nations side and if they meet England or France in the 'semis,' then stakes can be recovered or a profit made either way.
As for the top try scorer, Kiwi Richard Kahui with four under his belt along with France's Vincent Clerc and Fiji's Goneva, should be taken at 100-30.
New Zealand face France on Saturday which gives Kahui a chance to build on his total which he most certainly will do later against Canada.
Winning hemisphere: 1-7 southern; 4-1 northern.
Betting on possible finalists: New Zealand v England 100-30; New Zealand v France 7-2; New Zealand v Ireland 5-1; Australia v New Zealand 15-2; New Zealand v Wales 8-1; New Zealand v South Africa 14-1; Australia v England 14-1; Australia v France; Australia v Ireland 17-1; New Zealand v Scotland 250-1.