Lions 2013 | By Andy McGeady
The Paddy Power Blog reveals the starting odds for previous Lions tours and whether the performances matched the prices.
It’s the start of the Northern Hemisphere summer, after months of speculation the squad has finally been picked and even the din surrounding players left out is now not much more than a quiet echo. In that fun can breed no small amount of confidence. A Lions team is a veritable fantasy XV from rugby’s ‘home’ nations, after all; an unstoppable juggernaut, surely.
It’s sometimes hard to look back in time to wonder how people really viewed the probability of a win in a sports event, but one objective way is to look at the odds in favour of that win happening prior to that event taking place. To that end, I have been allowed access to the vast machine that drives Paddy Power to peer into the dusty corners of their odds archives and see what I could find.
2001: Australia — Faith in favourites misplaced
A youthful Brian O’Driscoll is off on his first Lions tour, captained by Martin Johnson and coached by the not-yet-Sir Graham Henry. The odds of a Lions series win? 1.33 (approx. 1/3 in traditional betting parlance). Unfortunately, that faith was misplaced. The Lions, having won the first test, would go on to lose the final two tests and the series. A side that’s a 1/3 favourite should win the first test 29-13. However, a side that’s a 1/3 favourite should probably not have lost the second test 35-14.
2005: New Zealand — Wallopings show bookies got it bang-on
The Clive Woodward Experience. Despite (or perhaps because of) the selection of 44 players in the initial squad as well as a horde of travelling management, the public at the time were distinctly wary of predicting a Lions series win with the odds sitting at 13.00 (12/1). Three test defeats later at the hands of the All Blacks, including two wallopings, the public walked away knowing the series odds had been about right.
12/1 in a two-horse race is very long odds indeed but the strange thing was that the price for a 3-0 Lions series win was just 14/1. One would think that a Lions whitewash should have been priced more attractively.
2009: South Africa — Underdogs salvage some pride
Paul O’Connell captained a Lions squad containing vast multitudes of Irishmen (a total of 16 by the end of the tour), fresh from their Six Nations Grand Slam. Odds of a Lions series win sat at 6.00 (5/1), and, although the Lions won the third test by 19 points to claim an overall victory on points difference the sad fact was that the first two encounters had already been narrowly lost.
Without considering the third test victory in a dead rubber match, a side that lost two games by a cumulative deficit of eight points going into a series that they were given 5/1 odds to win probably did very well indeed.
2013: Australia — Can favourites live up to the hype?
The Lions are back in Australia and the enthusiasm has similarly followed that of 12 years ago, with the Lions odds-on for a series win at 1.62 (8/13) at the time of writing. Winning a Lions series isn’t easy; the Lions coaching staff have a month to mould star players from four nations into an effective, match-winning unit.
Of course, between injuries to David Pollock and his mooted replacement George Smith along with uncertainty about the selection or availability of the gifted Kurtley Beale and Quaid Cooper, the Australians are not without issues themselves.
The Lions are odds-on favourites at 8/13, but the series forecast prices sit at around 8/5 for a 2-1 series win and 7/2 for a whitewash. When one thinks that in the last three Lions series the Lions have won only a single test match that wasn’t already a dead rubber, if you’re confident of a Lions series win but have half an eye on the history books that 8/5 price for a 2-1 series win seems like the smarter price.
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