Tuesday, June 07, 2022

The Issue with the RWC Draw by Ciarán Duffy

 Plus RWC2023 Qualifer Update

When the World Cup draw was made, only 12 teams had qualified.  Since then 4 more have secured their place while 4 spots still remain.  I put together a piece on how those spots will be filled last week.  

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 Rakings

  • 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 is 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 reason.  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.  

RWC2023 Qualifier Update

Asia Rugby Championship Semi-Final

Korea Republic 55 – Malaysia 10

A routine win for Korea at Incheon Namdong Asiad Rugby Field.  They will now go on to face Hong Kong in the Asia Rugby Championship final.  The winner of that game will play Tonga for a chance to qualify as Asia/Pacific 1, with the loser going into the final Qualification tournament.

There were conflicting dates given for the Asia Rugby Championship Final.  It appears it was originally supposed to be held on June 9th (this Thursday).  However, the most recent date given and the date on the official World Rugby website is Saturday 9th July.  It should be noted the World Cup site has the game down for Friday 8th July.  I will provide an update when there is clarity.  

Upcoming World Cup Qualification Fixtures

July 1st

Africa Rugby Championship Quarter-Finals (To be held in France)

Namibia vs Burkina Faso

Zimbabwe vs Cote D’Ivoire

Senegal vs Algeria

Uganda vs Kenya

July 6th

Africa Rugby Championship Semi-Finals

Namibia/Burkina Faso vs Zimbabwe/Cote D’Ivoire

Senegal/Algeria vs Uganda/Kenya

July 9th

Asia Rugby Championship Final

Korea Republic vs Hong Kong

Americas 2 Play-Off First-Leg

Chile vs USA

July 10th 

Africa Rugby Championship Final

Namibia/Burkina Faso or Zimbabwe/Cote D’Ivoire vs Senegal/Algeria or Uganda/Kenya

July 16th 

Americas 2 Play-Off Second-Leg

USA vs Chile

July 23rd

Asia/Pacific 1 Play-Off

Tonga vs Korea Republic/Hong Kong

The final qualification tournament will be held during the November international window.  So far Portugal are the only team to have qualified.  The will be joined by the runners-up of the Rugby Africa Cup (Africa 2), the loser of the Americas 2 Play-Off (Americas 3), and the loser of the Asia/Pacific 1 Play-Off (Asia/Pacific 2).  

In my article next Tuesday I plan to look at how the World Cup could be expanded.

Ciarán Duffy is the Producer and Presenter of Post to Post Sport.  They cover football and Irish rugby. 

Follow @PostToPostSport on Twitter and Instagram. 

Soon the website PostToPost.Sport.Blog will be updated. 

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Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019