The 2018 Rugby Championship will be the seventh edition of the expanded annual southern hemisphere tournament featuring Argentina, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.

The tournament continues to use the same sequence of games across the schedule, beginning on the 18 August with Australia hosting reigning champions New Zealand and South Africa hosting Argentina, and ending eight weeks (six rounds and two bye weeks), ending on 6 October

The format for the 2018 tournament retains the previous Championship format that changed in 2017. Each side plays the other once at home, and once away, giving a total of six matches each, and twelve in total. A win earns a team four league points, a draw two league points, and a loss by eight or more points zero league points. A bonus point can be earned in one of two ways: by scoring at least three tries more than the opponent in a match, or by losing within seven points.

New Zealand have won five of the last six editions and Argentina have finished last in five of their six years in the competition.

Outright odds for the Championship are as follows:
New Zealand 1/7
Australia 7/1
South Africa 7/1
Argentina 100/1

There is very little to go at from a betting perspective with New Zealand, the strongest side with enviable depth, very likely winners. Argentina are 2/5 to finish bottom, so also nothing to do there

The market with more betting appeal is the “to finish second” market with Betfair/Paddy Power

Australia 7/5
South Africa 9/5
New Zealand 7/2
Argentina 11/2

Australia and South Africa look closely matched sides. South Africa beat England 3-0 in the summer series and their change in selection policy, allowing overseas players to be selected unlike previously, is a big boost. There has been a big drain of talent to the Northern Hemisphere, the weak rand has meant that domestic rugby cannot match the terms on offer. Now this is available for selection

Australia probably had a tougher task in the summer losing 2-1 to SixNations Grand Slam winners Ireland. Some Wallabies have also opted to put their international careers on hold and sign more lucrative contracts in Europe and Japan during recent years, a trend that coach Michael Cheika is desperate to stop.

Both teams have their flaws. Australia lack grunt in the front five, South Africa some experience out wide but South Africa at 9/5 are marginally better value. Last year in this championship the two teams drew twice, and South Africa have probably improved further since

Recommendation South Africa to finish second in the Rugby Championship 9/5 Paddy Power

The first match of the championship is the Bledisloe Cup Match between Australia and New Zealand in Sydney.

New Zealand are best priced 2/9 with Bet365 for the match and 11 point handicap favourites at 10/11. They won the corresponding fixture by 20 points, then 6 points in the home fixture. I would expect the All Blacks to cover -11 here.