JOHN KELLEY IN PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND
THE horse racing correspondent for the old Herald newspaper in Harare (then Salisbury), Jack English, once told me his secret.
When writing his column on a Saturday ahead of Borrowdale in Harare or on a Sunday (Ascot, Bulawayo) he would forecast the winners for his column strictly on the basis of their recent form. But for his own betting purpose he would talk to owners, trainers and jockeys. In this way, using the information, he would subsidise his pension.
It is fairly certain that all or nearly all horse racing forecasters world-wide would lose money if they were obliged to bet on their selections. A long time ago I carried out a month’s test for interest – and this was so.
Form is fickle of course and it is only in boxing, I find, that the concept can be more or less relied upon.
Therefore it is best to keep clear of the bookmakers when considering who might win the upcoming 2024 series of Six Nations Rugby involving the holders Ireland, plus France, Scotland, England, Wales and Italy. Will that be the order of finish this time around? Possible but perhaps unlikely.
Is Ireland still strong and inventive enough to continue winning ways, even though some of their best players are likely to be missing? Can France produce the flair and speed to reach top place? They are well known for those qualities but they were not always on show last year. Does having several fixtures on home grounds make a difference to France among highly charged crowds?
Scotland came third only because of England failures. The Scots are good all round and have some outstanding players but they are not quite, perhaps, championship material. England were shocking in 2023 and looked demoralised at their loss of confidence, not least behind the scenes. They even lost in a friendly showpiece to touring Pacific Islanders Fiji, causing a sensation in the rugby world. England selectors are also still refusing to consider players who are turning out for foreign clubs and there is much complaining about that by commentators. England have won the Six Nations seven times but it doesn’t look likely they will add an eighth. But in rugby you never know.
Wales have been dismal for several seasons but are showing signs of a return to their former status as powerful opponents for anybody. Italy must wait their turn a few more years yet, but joining the elite could eventually happen and it will be separately interesting to watch their progress.
As always there will be huge, noisy, flag-waving, patriotic crowds, sometimes up to 80 000 strong, and national anthems sung with fervour. Wars, pestilence, refugees, earthquakes, hurricanes and political intrigues well and truly forgotten for each 80 minutes.
. *Veteran journalist and author John Kelley, who spent nearly 50 years working in Rhodesia and Zimbabwe, writes for The NewsHawks from his Portsmouth home in the UK.