October 01, 2007

40 games down: With the pool stages of the RWC over it is time for the remaining 8 nations to look ahead. For some of thos going home there are high points to reflect upon; for others the hatchets are waiting.

posted by Fence to other at 04:25 AM - 20 comments

One of the arguments against having a rugby world cup in the first place was that the gulf between the best and the rest of world rugby was too great to provide an interesting spectacle. The success of the first RWC (in 1987) was questioned because of how many one-sided games there were in the pool stages, but many argued that the lesser nations could never hope to improve if they didn't have the chance to come into contact more frequently with the better teams. So... are they improving? In 1987, there were 24 pool games, 67% of which were won by 19 points or more. The average margin of victory was 26.58 points. In 1991, there were 24 pool games, 50% of which were won by 19 points or more. The average margin of victory was 21.17 points. In 1995, there were 24 pool games, 63% of which were won by 19 points or more. The average margin of victory was 27.75 points (although it should be noted that after 1992, the value of a try increased from four points to five points). In 1999, there were 30 pool games, 63% of which were won by 19 points or more. The average margin of victory was 32.77 points. In 2003, there were 30 pool games, 73% of which were won by 19 points or more. The average margin of victory was 37.57 points. In 2007, there were 40 pool games, 55% of which were won by 19 points or more. The average margin of victory was 30.03 points. All very unscientific, but allied to the general feeling Ive had watching this year's RWC, suggestive that the smaller teams are really starting to improve. In 2003, I remember looking back through the pool results and wishing I'd taken a accumulating bet on the favourite in each game. I'm a fan, not an expert, but even I would have called every single one of the pool games correctly. This time around, there have been a few shocks and plenty of pleasant surprises (in terms of teams that looked likely to get beaten heavily, playing well and making an exciting game of it). And the quarter-finals look juicy prospects all (despite - or maybe even because of - Ireland's absence).

posted by JJ at 07:20 AM on October 01, 2007

Thanks, JJ. I think that's about as scientific as it needs to be, so don't apologise. The jump in margins from 1995 to 1999 could be explained by the expansion to 20 nations, and therefore a larger number of 'weaker' teams. As for this year, I bet neither the All Blacks nor Les Bleus were planning their clash for Cardiff in the QF. Argentina look like having the easiest passage to the semis. Australia and England will always be close and tense. And neutrals should be hoping that Fiji beats the Japies, although that's highly unlikely. The Pacific Island style doesn't usually go well against the more physical southern hemisphere sides. I'll be in Samoa from this weekend until the final, watching the games at 6 am in a crowded bar owned by a former All Black. Atmosphere? Like the surface of Jupiter.

posted by owlhouse at 04:43 PM on October 01, 2007

Dense, with raging storms?

posted by Drood at 06:53 PM on October 01, 2007

Without knowing too much about rugby, 30 points seems to be a pretty large average margin of victory. That is equal to more than 4 tries with conversions (I think).

posted by Ricardo at 11:14 AM on October 02, 2007

30 points is a large margin Ricardo. But you'll often find that a more "established" team will score a lot more in the second half after wearing down the opposition in the first. Plus, once one team is in the lead the other may take more chances and so play a riskier game, and the leading team can sit back and wait for the mistakes to happen. Your maths is right, 4 converted tries = 28 points. I've made my decisions for the next round; I'm going to be cheering on France when they play the All Blacks ; Argentina when they play Scotland ; Fiji when they play South Africa ; England when they play[12] Australia. I may burn in hell for some of those choices ;)

posted by Fence at 12:38 PM on October 02, 2007

An Irishwoman cheering for England? Straight to the seventh circle of hell for you, especially against Australia, the country of Michael Patrick Lynagh :-).

posted by owlhouse at 04:00 PM on October 02, 2007

I know owlhouse, I know. As I've explained to some other people I have a soft spot for Martin Corry. Which is so weird because I don't like him at all. But I'd like to see Jason Robinson have another go.

posted by Fence at 03:25 AM on October 03, 2007

Oh, and all good GAA-girls are anti-Australia at the moment. Seeing as they are busy poaching our up and coming stars. ;)

posted by Fence at 03:27 AM on October 03, 2007

Ever since they did this to cancel out this, I've been rather prone to supporting any team that plays Australia, but even I have to draw the line at supporting England. Having said that, I did support them four years ago when they did this, and it was all worth it just to see this photo of John Howard looking like a midget. But not this time. England are rubbish and Australia have been entertaining thus far, so I'd rather see the green and gold in the semi-final. I'm hoping for a southern hemisphere sweep in the quarter finals (and for SA to beat Fiji for the good of the tournament if not the good of my entertainment). Perhaps that's disloyal of me, but I find it hard to get excited about supporting a hemisphere. It seems a little hard to relate to. The jump in margins from 1995 to 1999 could be explained by the expansion to 20 nations, and therefore a larger number of 'weaker' teams. Absolutely, and that was probably compounded by the fact that by 1999, professionalism was really taking shape and widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots of world rugby. A bunch of part-timers from Namibia always struggled against a bunch of part-timers from neighbouring South Africa, but when those South African part-timers were suddenly full time, highly paid athletes, the word "struggle" no longer described it.

posted by JJ at 04:33 AM on October 03, 2007

As Fence already mentioned, Ricardo, 30 points seems like a lot, but if one team gets its tail up, big numbers can happen. You could argue for a mercy rule I think. There are also some huge scorelines in there that are dragging the averages up a bit unrealistically (for example, in 1995, you had New Zealand beating Japan by 145 points to 17, and in 2003, you had Australia beating Namibia 142 points to nil). Highest three margins each year (for what that's worth): 1987 - 64, 59, 58 1991 - 44, 44, 40 1995 - 128, 89, 47 1999 - 98, 91, 61 2003 - 142, 98, 82 2007 - 95, 88, 77

posted by JJ at 04:43 AM on October 03, 2007

Trying to analyse the scores has started me thinking about all the changes in rugby since the first world cup - and in general over the lifespan of the game. I can't think of another sport where the rules are being so constantly (and often radically) modified. Since 1987 we've seen changes to the points system (five for a try now instead of four), changes to how you take a mark, changes to how you kick off (it's always a drop kick now - didn't used to be), changes to the rules about lifting in the lineouts, who gets awarded the scrum when they all fall down and the ball can't be played... it goes on an on. On top of all that, we've seen the advent of professionalism, the changing format of the domestic game (in the northern and the southern hemisphere), the Four Nations became the Five Nations and then the Six Nations (and after their showing so far in the world cup, how much longer can Argentina's desire to join that party and make it he Seven Nations be ignored?) The Super Sixes became the Super Ten, then the Super Twelve and now is the Super Fourteen. It might become the Super Sixteen if the Argentines try to join the Tri Nations instead of the European competition, but then the South Africans have said they might want to play the European teams instead of the Australia and New Zealand because the travel and time zones would be easier. Sometimes it's hard to keep track.

posted by JJ at 08:17 AM on October 03, 2007

England are rubbish, and maybe that is why I can support them. I know that they haven't a hope of winning. Although could you imagine the media if they did.... Maybe I can't support them after all ;) I don't buy the whole "support the HM" guff either JJ, I just don't understand it, although i do tend to support Scotland most of the time, if they aren't playing Ireland of course, so I'm going against the norm for that match. I can't see Argentina joining the Six Nations. Not under the current set up at any rate. The clubs would not be happy at another weekend lost. I would love to see them getting into one of the yearly competitions, but it'd probably be better for them to join the Tri-Nations. I do think that for all the alterations to the laws of the game the IRB would be better off trying to rearrange the fixtures. The Six Nations should have a relegation aspect to it, that would encourage the other European "minnows" and offer them more competition when promoted.

posted by Fence at 11:53 AM on October 03, 2007

Apologise to the GAA for me, Fence, but Tadgh Kenneally coming off the half back line for the Sydney Swans is one of the most thrilling sights in AFL. Confession - while Australian, I'm half English and half Welsh. I once tried to analyse my sporting choices - supporting England at football and Rugby League, but Australia at cricket and Rugby (however with a soft spot for Wales). I'm pretty sure this has everything to do with politics and the class struggle.

posted by owlhouse at 05:33 PM on October 03, 2007

John Howard looking like a midget I was hoping we'd have our national election before Australia wins the WC, but now that's not going to happen until late November or December. If the polls are correct, we will see the last of him and his horrible Wallaby tracksuit. Not sure if you saw it on the TV coverage, but Howard was roundly booed when introduced at the 2003 final, and was incredibly grumpy when he handed out the medals. If a conservative PM can't get support from a rugby crowd...

posted by owlhouse at 06:07 PM on October 03, 2007

We tend to have a love/hate relationship with Aussie Rules owlhouse. We love to see Irish fellas doing well over there, but we hate to see them leave. Although Setanta and Aisaike O hAilpin manage to combine playing AFL and club GAA games, which is nice :)

posted by Fence at 03:13 AM on October 04, 2007

The Pacific Island style
What, how the All Blacks play? Because (begin pet peeve) New Zealand is a group of, you know, islands in the pacific.

posted by rodgerd at 04:12 AM on October 04, 2007

New Zealand is a group of, you know, islands in the pacific ... and their rugby team has stolen all its best players from lots of other, you know, islands in the pacific.

posted by JJ at 06:29 AM on October 04, 2007

You need to spend less time reading bullshit by Stephen Jones and more in connection with reality, JJ. I think you'll find Samoa steals more players from New Zealand than the other way around.

posted by rodgerd at 02:33 PM on October 04, 2007

Er, that may have been true in 1991 and 1995, rogerd, but not so these days. I was at the Manu Samoa WC qualifying matches against Fiji and Tonga at Apia Park in 1995. The match program not only listed the Samoan players' club teams, but also the village in Samoa that they came from. As I recall, all members of that squad were born and bred in Samoa. I think an IRB decision a few years back has essentially prevented Manu Samoa from picking anyone who has played for a NZ representative team, although that doesn't prevent some players from opting to choose the country of their parents' birth, but therefore eliminating any possibility of playing for the All Blacks in future. Samoans also claim and cheer on any NZ-born All Blacks with Samoan heritage, too, but that's a different matter.

posted by owlhouse at 04:53 AM on October 05, 2007

Apologies for any offence, rodgerd. I was trying to be funny, but was maybe a little strong. Having said that "I think you'll find" that whoever wrote that article you linked to is mangling the statistics to suit his argument. He lost me at "Ronan O'Gara is from the USA" - of course he is, in the same way that I am a Japie because I happened to be born in South Africa. Perhaps my use of the word "stolen" was a bit too strong for the joke I was trying to crack - I don't mean to imply that Sean Fitzpatrick and a crack squad of former All Blacks is sneaking around Western Samoa kidnapping young rugby players as they sleep before spiriting them away to face a life enslaved to the New Zealand national team. If I had anything as high brow as a point, it was maybe that playing high level rugby in New Zealand is so lucrative, and playing for the national team so prestigeous, that it is unsurprising that those faced with the choice of playing for the All Blacks or returning to their country, if not of birth, then of "origin" in the ethnic sense, choose the former. Hell, I'm an Irishman born in South Africa who has never been east of Java, but if I was waving a magic wand to make myself the greatest rugby player alive, I'd thrown a change of nationality into the wish-making process too just to don that black jersey. I have two strong All Black memories from my childhood: 1. One of my mother's cousins, Harry Rea, played rugby for Ireland long before I was born. His father, Bill, was my grandfather's twin brother, and died shortly after him. At his funeral, the vicar told the story of how the greatest moment of his life and worst moment of his life came mere seconds apart. The greatest moment was when his son, Harry, crashed over to score a match-winning try to give Ireland their first ever victory against New Zealand. The worst moment came five seconds later when he realised the try had been disallowed for a forward pass. 2. When I was 14, the All Blacks toured Ireland. The headmaster of my school had something to do with the IRFU and persuaded New Zealand to use our school pitches for their mid-week training sessions. All morning, we pressed our noses to windows watching them and when the lunch bell rang we all ignored the dining hall and proceeded straight to the pitches. In my rush to get there, I charged round a corner without looking were I was going and ran straight into Tuigamala. I wasn't the smallest fourteen year-old in history, but I'd never encountered someone so enormous. Compared to a modern player, he'd probably look tiny.

posted by JJ at 05:09 AM on October 05, 2007

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