Tag Archives: Rugby

The Issue With The RWC Draw

This piece is adapted from an article we originally wrote for Harpin’ On Rugby ahead of the World Cup Qualifiers that took place over the Summer.

When the World Cup draw was made, only 12 teams had qualified.  Since then, 7 more have secured their place while 1 spot still remains. The final place will be decided in November during the four team qualifier tournament involving Portugal, Chile, Kenya, and USA.

But there have to be questions asked about the draw being made almost 3 years before the actual tournament.  The seeding was based on the World Rankings in January 2020, basically the rankings following the 2019 RWC.  There is some sense in letting the previous World Cup have some say in the seedings for the next one, but that should really be limited to the World Champions being a top seed. 

We can see an issue with the way the draw has worked out.  Namely that France were ranked 7th at the time of the draw and have since become one of the best teams in the World.  The French now find themselves as 2nd seeds in a pool with New Zealand.  If the draw was based on rankings closer to the World Cup we wouldn’t see teams suffer from not being as good 4 years previous to the tournament as they are at the time of the actual tournament.

When to do the draw?

One of the reasons touted for doing the draw so early is to allow for ticket sales.  There are two more pressing issues:

  • The relevance of the World Rankings
  • The identity of the teams that have qualified

I’ll get on to the issue with not knowing the identities of the TBD sides (labelled with the likes of Europe 1, Americas 2, Africa 1, Final Qualification Tournament) at the time of the draw.  But first up are the rankings. 

For one thing, I’m a firm believer in the host or hosts being top seeds.  France should have been top seed number 1, with South Africa being top seed number 2 as champions.  The other two places in pot 1 should go to the next highest ranked sides in the World.  Pot 2 should follow with the next best 4 teams after that.  The most effective way of deciding on the seeds would be to wait until after the November internationals the year prior to the World Cup.  This would give teams a full three years worth of games to improve their rankings, or for their ranking to get worse.  Either way it gives a fairer look of where each team is at with under a year to the World Cup. 

The reality is when the draw is made teams are going to have tournaments (Six Nations, Rugby Championship, Americas Rugby Championship etc), Summer Tours, and November tests.  The 12 teams that automatically qualify are unlikely to all be in the same place as they were 3 years prior to the tournament.  If the draw takes place after the last set of November internationals, teams have a World Cup cycle to fight for their ranking and there is still enough time to sort out tickets and stadiums.

And Another Thing…

Something that has irked me about World Cups is that teams from the same tournament are lumped in together.  And in some cases, the majority of teams from the regions without much representation get lumped in together. 

In RWC2019 there were:

  • Both African teams in Pool B (South Africa & Namibia)
  • 2 Americas Rugby Championship sides in Pool C (Argentina & USA)

In RWC2015 there were:

  • 3 Pacific Nations Cup Teams in Pool B (Japan, Samoa, & USA)
  • 3 Six Nations Sides in Pool D plus another European side (Ireland, France, Italy, & Romania)

In RWC2012 there were:

  • 4 European sides in Pool B (England, Scotland, Georgia, & Romania)
  • Both African sides in Pool D (South Africa & Namibia)
  • 2 Pacific islander sides in Pool D (Samoa & Fiji).

I would argue to give the World Cup more of a, well, WORLD feeling to it, teams should be spread out more.  This is another issue that arises when the draw is made before all the teams are identified, as we do not yet know where the final qualifier will be from.

If there are 8 or 9 teams from Europe, including 6 from the Six Nations, in the World Cup, I would argue there should be no more than 2 sides from the Six Nations and no more than a total of 3 European sides in each pool.  As for the Rugby Championship sides, it’s more complicated with Japan joining, Argentina playing in the Americas Rugby Championship, and the presences of a side from Africa.  With only 2 or at most 3 Africa sides in the tournament, they should all be spread out, as should the 3 (possibly 4) Americas sides that qualify.  I would argue the Pacific Islands (Fiji, Tonga, & Samoa) should be kept separate from each other, put not necessarily the other sides in the Pacific region.  Japan may be an exception to this if they are playing in the Pacific Nations Cup. 

These things could be sorted out through having pots 4 and 5 in the draw arranged geographically.  One thing they do in the football World Cup is skip a group if a team is drawn out to play in a group with too many teams from that region.

What do you think about the World Cup Draw?  To early?  Too much geographical congestion?  Let us know on the social channels. or leave a comment below.

Munster Lack Edge in Narrow Loss To Leinster

A rivalry as old as Irish Rugby itself. Munster once dominated and were the more feared side in Europe, with Leinster a side inflicted by the nearly-men curse. Those roles have been reversed in the last decade, with Leinster wins becoming more frequent in this fixture. While the side in the east of Ireland have lifted 3 League titles in a row and consistently challenging in Europe, it’s Munster who are now suffering a drought and losing games on big occasions. Connacht’s win in the RDS a few weeks ago should Leinster aren’t as invincible as the last year and a half of Pro14 games would suggest. Connacht were intense, energetic, and near flawless that day, bringing Leinster back down to Earth. Munster will have left the pitch on Saturday feeling they should have handed their provincial rivals a 2nd defeat of the season in what could be a League final preview.

Withe Leinster’s 10-13 win, the equaled the record for most consecutive wins in this fixture they set between 2009-2010 with 5 wins. Since Munster beat Leinster in the League Final in 2011, Munster have only won 5 of the 22 games between the sides. The Southern Province have only won once in the past 5 seasons, and have lost 3 semi-finals against Leinster on the Boys in Blue’s route to 3 league titles in a row. Getting to those League semi-finals shows that Munster are getting there, as those the 3-point scoreline and the fact that this is the 4th successive game between the sides that was quite close. But the 90-56 aggregate scoreline in favor of Leinster over the last 5 games, all Leinster wins, shows there is a gulf in class, one many Leinster fans could only dream of in the 00’s

Munster lead from the 5th minute when Hanrahan kicked a penalty until the 69th minute when Jordan Larmour crossed the line after a beautiful side step. Crucially, Munster’s last score was the conversion from Beirne’s try in the 12th minute. Despite having the better of much of the play, they were not clinical. If you fail to score for over an hour in a rugby match against a side that has dominated the league and has had your number, your liable to receive a gut punch. That gut punch game with 11 minutes to go after Ross Byrne did well to set up Larmour and respond to any complaints about him potentially being Ireland’s number 2 number 10 in the Six Nations.

The game was delicately poised, which suited Leinster more than Munster. It seems obvious to say, but if Munster had built a lead during their dominance early in the 2nd half they would have likely held on as Leinster were not having their best game. Munster looked to have the momentum when they won a turnover on their own line, and had the opportunity to make it a 10-point game with a penalty just before halftime. Agonizingly it hit the post, resulting in Leinster finding an attacking platform, winning a penalty, and scoring. A game that should have had a 10-point difference had a 4-point difference at the break. Munster had something to doubt themselves over, Leinster had proof that they were the more clinical side.

It’s an issue Ireland have faced at times over the past while. Having plenty of chances, not taking them, then receiving a hammer blow. The hammer-blow this time around was delivered by Larmour side-stepping his way over the line off a lineout play. Ross Byrne expertly landed the conversion to make sure Munster would need a try to win the game. Munster were deflated, Leinster, like great teams do, won a game where they were 2nd best for the majority.

The biggest game of the season is now Ulster v Leinster, which is a must win for Ulster to reach the final. If Ulster were to drop many points in their remaining games we’ll likely see a repeat of this fixture, possibly in the Aviva, at the end of the League campaign before a new era begins.