Tri-Nations Betting Preview
All Blacks favourites with the bookies
Simon Cambers
July 21, 2011
New Zealand's Richie McCaw celebrates victory, South Africa v New Zealand, Tri-Nations, FNB Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa, August 21, 2010
All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw celebrates victory in the 2010 Tri-Nations © Getty Images
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It may be a Rugby World Cup year but New Zealand, Australia and South Africa will still be battling to win the Tri-Nations, which begins on Saturday as the Wallabies host the Springboks. Whether they will be going all-out is anyone's guess but nothing builds confidence like success - so victory is still the aim.

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As the defending champions and the world's best side, New Zealand deserve their status as favourites. Bet365 make them 4/9 to win it again, with Australia 5/2 and South Africa, who will defend their World Cup crown this autumn, are the rank outsiders.

That is partly because South Africa have already stated their intention to rest some key players at various times, wary of injuries and burn-out with the bigger stage to come later this year. They have won the Tri-Nations only three times and last year they won only one match, so they can't argue with the price they have been given.

Coach Peter de Villiers clearly feels the World Cup is the main aim and won't do anything to disrupt his game-plan. Their chances of success are lessened by the fact that their first two matches are away, in Sydney and Wellington, so much will depend on what kind of shape they are in when they come home.

The same cannot be said for Australia, who generally play well in World Cup year and usually at the competition itself. Unlike New Zealand, who like to try to dominate as much and as often as they can, they usually build nicely towards peaking every four years and where better to prepare than against their main rivals?

Starting at home against South Africa should give them a base from which to push on and there is no question that they have the talent. The success of the Queensland Reds in Super Rugby has boosted the belief that this could be their year and having not won the competition for 10 years, they should not be lacking for motivation.

Australia coach Robbie Deans has welcomed back a few of his big guns, including James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale, after last weekend's damaging loss to Samoa and he seems intent on playing strong teams throughout the Tri-Nations. The possibility of striking a psychological blow that could come in handy later in the year is too good to resist so expect them to be strong.

On to New Zealand. Will this be the year when they assert their dominance in the World Cup instead of falling apart under the pressure? They are still the world's best side and winning the Tri-Nations would, surely, be the perfect springboard for the autumn.

Their record in the event is simply brilliant. Ten victories overall and five in the past six show their dominance. Graham Henry's side remain the side to beat. Starting with two home games is surely in their favour and they could be well away by the time they have to leave their own shores.

They will likely chop and change a little but by and large the players on show will be those who will go to the World Cup. In Dan Carter, they possess the best fly-half in the world, who wants to win the biggest prize of all. Coach Henry will have to figure out how best to use Sonny Bill Williams but much will depend on how the early matches go.

But the simple facts are that New Zealand have the best squad of players and the best starting XV so over four games apiece, the chances are they will come out on top. Australia may push them a little but in the end, the All Blacks hold all the aces.

Please note that odds are correct at time of publication and are subject to change.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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