Friday, October 16, 2015

The Rugby World Cup

So here's the deal with rugby:  every four years, they play a Rugby World Cup, which is modeled on the Soccer World Cup.  The Rugby World Cup features 20 nations from all over the world.  But there are only about 9 or 10 countries that are good at rugby.  So the whole group stage is basically an exercise to eliminate one or two teams.  The rest of the games are blowouts, or games among teams with no chance to move on.  For example, here was how the United States did at the Rugby World Cup:

Samoa 25, United States 16
Scotland 39, United States 16
South Africa 64, United States 0
Japan 28, United States 18

As you can probably tell, South Africa and Scotland advanced from our group.

But this year, for reasons that I still don't understand, three of the best rugby-playing nations on earth -- England, Australia, and Wales -- were all drawn into the same group (along with Fiji and Uruguay).  This Rugby World Cup is being played in England, and Australia almost always beats Wales, so the Welshmen felt a bit put out by this whole development.  Here's what happened:

1.  On September 26, England led 25-18 in the second half -- and two Welsh players had been stretchered off with injuries.  BUT NEVER UNDERESTIMATE WELSH SPIRIT!  The Welsh hate England above all teams, and they FOUGHT BACK to take a 28-25 lead.  Nevertheless, England still had time to tie or take the lead.  The English drove down into Welsh territory, and were in a good position to kick a field goal (or whatever the equivalent is called in rugby) for three points and a tie.  But England decided to go for the win.  They did not kick for three points, but went for a try (the rugby version of a touchdown) and victory.  BUT NEVER UNDERESTIMATE WELSH SPIRIT!  The injured Welsh team HELD, and Wales beat England 28-25.  Welsh media filled up with video clips that looked almost exactly like the clips you see of Kentucky fans after UK wins a big game.

2.  On October 3, Australia stomped England 33-13, thus effectively eliminating England at the group stage.  As you might imagine, the Welsh were transported with joy over this development.

3. On October 10, Australia and Wales met to decide first place in their group.  In a hard-fought match, Australia ground out a 15-6 win.  The English press pointed out that if England had taken the tie with Wales, the tie-breaker would have favored England, who could have advanced to the elimination rounds.  BUT MAYBE THEY SHOULD HAVE SHOWN WALES MORE RESPECT.

Anyway, nothing of interest happened in any of the other groups, and we are now looking at the following quarterfinals:

October 17:  South Africa v. Wales.  South Africa is favored by 9 1/2 points with an over/under of 39 1/2 points.  So that would work out to something like a 24-15 win for the Springboks.

October 17:  New Zealand v. France.  New Zealand is favored by 12 1/2 points with an over/under of 40 1/2.  So that would work out to something like a 27-14 win for the Kiwis.

October 18:  Ireland v. Argentina.  Ireland is favored by 4 1/2 points with an over/under of 37 1/2 points.  So that would work out to something like a 21-17 win for the Irish.

October 18:  Australia v. Scotland.  I couldn't find an over/under line on this game, but Australia is favored by 15 1/2 points.

So as you can see, even in the quarter-finals, three of the games feature heavy favorites.  But at least the Welsh will get one more chance to show their mettle.

Here's a list of the Rugby World Cup Finals:

1987:  New Zealand 29, France 9
1991:  Australia 12, England 6
1995:  South Africa 15, New Zealand 12 (after extra time)
1999:  Australia 35, France 12
2003:  England 20, Australia 17 (after extra time)
2007:  South Africa 15, England 6
2011:  New Zealand 8, France 7


  1. I heard the US may be a medal contender in the rugby 7 world cup

    1. Wales won the Men's Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2009.

  2. I will root for Wales.

    Also, I'll root a little for France. Part of my family is from France!