If this is the first article in the series you have read, then I suggest checking on the first two before proceeding!
A whole week spent in a wardrobe. Should have scraped the mushrooms growing off the top of the peaches prior to consuming. At least it was a COVID week gone quick, although it’s hard to explain to the distraught family and missing persons that I had been on a rugby tour in Narnia!
But let’s put front row centaurs aside and turn to the subject matter at hand.
Crouch, touch, pause, engage. It could be the phases of rugby fandom. Just when you are feeling disillusioned and disconnected from rugby along comes the World Cup with all its glory and drama to ‘engage’ and drag you back in.
If the rugby didn’t entertain you, then the sideline attractions of (standard) French player mutiny – ‘dwarfgate’, ‘harbourgate’ and any other ‘gate’ – did. We also saw a return to the winners circle of a more pragmatic New Zealand and a first-time hosting in a non-Tier 1 location, Japan. A truly electric event that, random red card mania aside, breathed some much-needed life back into the sport.
New Zealand: 2011, 2015
South Africa: 2019
|Country||Total score||Appearances||Aggregate||Avg place|
New Zealand with two titles are head and shoulders above the crowd. The darkness after a lengthy period of introspection, team rotations, strategy and selection errors and they finally shake the monkey off with a nervy win at home against old nemesis France. They then doubled down four years later in a far more dominant fashion before being unexpectedly usurped by England in the 2019 quarters.
The points gap between first and second shows just how dominant New Zealand have been. It also demonstrates how inconsistent the rest of the pack have been. South Africa (first, third, quarter-finals) and Australia (second, third, quarter-finals) are the front of the peloton that also includes Wales and France.
The big surprise is the ascension of Wales to be the leading light from the northern hemisphere – though perhaps it’s not such a surprise when it also coincides with the Warren Gatland coaching era and its numerous Six Nations titles and short stop at the top of the global rankings.
Risers and fallers
|Country||Semi-pro to pro|
While Ireland shows a large improvement, its significance is less impressive for a country that has reached the pinnacle of the world rankings but has still not managed to advance past the quarter-finals. They were hammered by Wales in 2011, Argentina (again) in 2015 and New Zealand in 2019.
The big winners are really Wales and Japan. The Welsh made the semi-finals twice and were a Warburton red card away from a final in 2015. Never to forget a favour, France paid it back in 2019. Such gentlemen.
As for Japan, an incredible first visit to the quarters at their home event, topping the pool by beating Scotland and Six Nations champions Ireland along the way. Further icing on their Brighton cake!
On the other side of the northern hemisphere coin, abject performances at their home event and quarter-finals exit in 2011 see England fall hard. Scotland’s diminishing returns at each event are also laid bare.
North versus south
The overall gap pretty much remains constant between both sides of the globe.
|All||Total score||Appearances||Aggregate||Avg place|
In the Tier 1 nations, the north remain fairly consistent due to fall of England and rise of Wales. The South gain 0.8 points due to the improvement of Argentina.
|Tier 1||Total score||Appearances||Aggregate||Avg place|
Across the Tier 2 nations the south slides back due to the ongoing struggles of Samoa and the fall of Fiji. They’re still good enough, however, to overcome the gallant charge of Russia and Georgia.
|Tier 2||Total score||Appearances||Aggregate||Avg place|
That rounds out the professional era.
Best performing nation
Those beached as long white cloud wizards, the magnificent multifaceted Sir Richie McCaw-led All Blacks.
The triple Six Nations champions Wales.
Hemisphere of champions
Yawn – southern hemisphere again across all tiers.
Has to be the Japanese with their adoption and turnout for visiting teams.
In the final part of the series I’ll look at the overall leader board, the trends across all events and crown the best team of the world cups.