IRELAND: Drisco inferno
IRISH can fire to World Cup glory, says Richard Mulligan IT'S value all the way to the betting shop for the northern hemisphere's rugby fans this autumn.
The bookies seem certain that New Zealand, South Africa and Australia will prove too good for their rivals up north' when the Rugby World Cup kicks off in France.
But, if England could win the Webb Ellis Cup Down Under four years ago, it's a certainty that one of Europe's giants can strike gold with the water going the right way round the plughole, so to speak.
In fact, why not get parochial with a 4/1 (Ladbrokes) punt on a northern hemisphere win.
Hosts France have the shortest odds of the European contingent, with 11/1 from Betfred, and their RBS Six Nations.
triumph marks them out above their rivals.
However, I really like the look of the Irish challenge, and at 20/1 (Sporting Odds) we could all be drinking a celebratory Guinness in honour of Brian O'Driscoll and chums come October 20.
Ireland, of course, thumped England in this year's Six Nations, but the World Cup holders can be bought as high as 28/1 (Stan James), while Wales are 80/1 (Paddy Power) and Scotland an outside 500/1 (Stan James).
Those who fancy a bigger price should back Ireland to beat New Zealand in the final at 50/1, while a repeat of last time's final - England versus Australia - is a very enticing 66/1 (Paddy Power).
While I'm backing the northerners, how about a further blow to Welsh rugby?
Fiji - the third' team in Pool B, behind Australia and Wales - are 10/1 (Ladbrokes) to make the quarters, and could just sneak past the Dragons.
Joe Rokocoko is the favourite as top try scorer in the competition, at 5/1 (bet365), but I like the look - and more importantly, the speed - of South Africa's Brian Habana.
The pacy wing is 14/1 with Sky Bet, while experienced Frenchman Christophe Dominici is 28/1 with bet365.