RWC2019: Freshness Tells In Quarters

All Blacks

I read a comment on one of The Rugby Blog’s articles last week which mentioned hoping that France, New Zealand and England didn’t all win their quarter finals. The reason for this wish was due to the extra week of rest that those nations had had prior to their first knock-out games in the wake of the typhoon. I didn’t read too much into it at the time as I didn’t think it would make a huge difference and I thought that every team would react differently – some may be undercooked whilst others may come back fresh and raring to go. Anyway, France are now out, proving that the cancellation of games had no impact at all.

Or did it? In all the games involving those teams, the percentage of successful tackles favoured the team who had the extra week to recover. Admittedly, you can adapt stats to suit your point, but this is a surprising one however you look at it.

This is particularly noticeable when you look at the overall number of tackles England had to make (193) compared to Australia (86). The men in white were evidently able to make more telling contributions when they actually had the ball than the Wallabies were and the tackles were more effective. The Australians attacked and attacked and attacked, with very little in the way of material reward on the scoreboard.

New Zealand and Ireland had to make a very similar number of tackles, but the percentages were hugely different. This could have been because of the suffocating line speed of the Kiwis or the ballast with which they carried. Ireland may not have had the ball carriers that their opposition did, but a suffocating defence is not something they usually lack and for them to fall off as many tackles as they did could suggest that the tanks of both teams were filled to very different levels.

As for Wales against the French, the stats were more even (as the scoreboard would suggest) so we can only use what we saw. There was no way that this French team should have been as close as they were to putting the Welsh away. They played with far more fluency and pace and looked far less leggy, even when they were reduced to fourteen men. Ordinarily, that may have resulted in a tired French implosion. Not on Sunday – they did themselves proud, but I can’t help but feel that if they’d played England the week before, they’d have looked to have far less verve than they did.

I’d love to make a similar case for why the Japanese were smothered out of the game, but both teams have played their full fixture list so I’ll just have to say that the South Africans did amazingly well in the second half to stifle Japan’s game. However, they have gone down as heroes.

Those cancellations do have that lingering feeling that they may have affected the World Cup in some way, but we will never know the truth in that and it’s all hypothetical.

Anyway, in mitigation, there could have been any number of reasons for those results. The teams that have made the last four are well-drilled, powerful and tactically astute. We have the best four teams in the world contesting what should absolutely be some cracking semi-finals. Regardless of that niggle in the back of my mind, I cannot wait.

By Joe Large

24 thoughts on “RWC2019: Freshness Tells In Quarters

  1. Nah nonsense
    The favourites won every game. France nearly sprung an upset by being France not because they had a extra weeks rest

    1. The French really brought it to Wales and ultimately lost because of the red. I don’t think they would have got up that lead against Wales if they were not so rested. And since we’re getting into chaos theory now, I also don’t think Vahaamahina would have got a red card which was to turn out being the last game of his international career. Disappointing

  2. I think it may have been my comment that aroused this curiosity and I hate to say it but I think it had an impact. The outlier is France in that they won their game but there is another outlier there which nullifies it. The red card..

    Would it have made a difference in the results?Actually I don’t think it would but we will never know. NZ would still have beaten Ireland in my opinion and beaten them well. Did it make a difference in the score lines. I think it really did.

    Overall, the typhoon caused enormous damage not just to Japan but to the integrity of world rugby. It smeared a wonderful hosting by Japan and the Japanese people and as I also recommended in another post, stadiums in northern Japan could have been used for most games, with arguably the final and 3rd place playoff in Tokyo or Yokohama.

    New Zealand, England and France may have picked up an injury or a red card. Players didn’t get to ay goodbye to the trade they have plied all their sporting lives. Teams didn’t get to test themselves against opposition of similar strength eg. Canada Namibia. Fans were refunded tickets, but no doubt not refunded the enormous travelling expense and let down from this.

    We will never know what effect it had but I genuinely think Wales would have had more fight in them, and that game would have gone differently. France would have had less energy but more accuracy. New Zealand would have had slightly less potency but small margins make a lot of difference, could have been the difference between a cracking game with New Zealand pulling away in the final 20 vs a crap game that was over at half time. It’s a major smear on World rugby and they know it.

    And it gets worse because we all know those teams are still more well rested after that break.

    The good news:
    It’s 2 rested teams (Eng Vs NZ) Vs. 2 unrested teams (Wal Vs SA)

    The (even more) bad news:
    The final will be contested between 2 teams, one of which is more rested than the other. It does have a knock on effect.

    1. Sorry, meant to say that the outlier was Wales in that they won their game, but they too looked more weary than France, and many would argue it was the red card that caused that.

      The the crap inconsistent refereeing, the favouritism which I won’t get into here. The continues screwing over of tier 2 and 3 teams by giving them shorter turnarounds and world rugby more willing to cancel their games.

      The only good thing about this world cup is the Japanese people, and Japan rugby. The rest is forgettable.

      The moral of the story: Bring on the ERC cup. I have had my fill of this world cup. I don’t really care who wins now.

      But if pressed, I hope SA still win this tarnished world cup. That would shut the Kiwis up. They are too cocky.

      1. Glad I’m not the only one who feels this has been a curious and ultimately forgettable comp.
        It seems like having a mind of your own is rapidly becoming an undesirable thing.

        1. If you have a mind if yr own Acee, you’re a troll. Think the WC’s been ok. Too many no contests, but that’s the same for all WC’s. 2 Tier comp with promo, relegation?

          1. Tier comp makes some sense Don. Reduce numbers in top tier to 16 (four groups of four) with top two teams of a second tier competition played in the previous year taking the last two places. Top three finishers in each group guaranteed a place in the next WC, with the bottom team of each group entering a play-off for two places at the next WC alongside the tier 2 winners and runners up (or to save money have a N.Hem and S.Hem competition and put the two winners through. However, as you have said in the past, unless some of the “emerging nations” get better funding and more tier one competition, the divide between rich and poor will remain unchanged.

            1. Unsure about how it might best work. Within 4 yrs potential T2 promotee/s might not be good enough based on the last WC table. Need to take into a/c W rankings prior to upcoming WC as well? Otherwise risk repeating outcome of current formula. Give Gosper something to chew on & earn his corn?

    2. Bigheadedsworth
      You state; ‘I think it may have been my comment that aroused this curiosity and I hate to say it but I think it had an impact’. Really? If you hated to ‘say’ it, why go ahead & do so then? You then opine ‘that Kiwis are too cocky’. Are you having a giraffe? Never heard of pots & kettles?

      1. Hate to say it as in hate to acknowledge it may be true but acknowledging it might be. It doesn’t matter now. Not sure how this confused you.

  3. The standard of refereeing for the most part in the 2015 world cup was excellent. It’s been one of the many major let downs of this 2019 world cup.

  4. I think it has been a fantastic competition , taken to a new and (hopefully as a result of the comp) rapidly growing rugby nation.

    The Japanese fans and team have been a revelation – the team playing some breathtaking rugby and the fans revelling in sport for its joyousness. They have been colourful, vocal and above all else, fair.

    The typhoon is an unfortunate blemish. The contingency planning around it has seemed poor (or non existent) but at the end of the day people died so perspective is required and for my money the comp has thrown up the semi-finalists that would have been expected.

    The refereeing is clearly confusing but as a father of a young son who I hope will play the sport one day , I like the way that the tackle is being emphasised over the hit. You can still smash someone but you need to be technically spot on, which seems fair. I do acknowledge that england haven’t yet been at the wrong end of one of these decisions though. Massive hits have grown since the start of professionalism / gym honed physiques – maybe more emphasis will be put on agility and dexterity as a result with more care in the tackle zone opening up a bit of space on the pitch. Here’s hoping.

  5. Its been a hugely entertaining comp, and utter rubbish about rested teams impacting the QF to any extent worth mentioning! There is a huge possibility both Eng and France would have still rested the high majority of the teams they put out on the weekend. Wales played Uruguay in their ‘extra’ match and i recall almost 3rd choice team ran out? So most of those on Sunday were rested players.

    Ireland could have had 3 weeks rest and NZ would have still dismantled them as they did. That first 20min had nothing to do with rested/non-rested, it was just simply a far superior team going for the jugular of a team low on form, confidence and simply not good enough. To add, suspect if NZ had played Italy very doubtful they would have played many of the team that ran out against Ireland.

    Japan didnt look tired, Australia didnt look tired, nor SA.

    Now excuse me my thumbs need a rest before my next post incase I cant pick the phone up.

    1. Fair argument. I thought Australia looked a little jaded but the English battered them well. Just as the AB’s battered us. Your comments about Ireland are accurate enough. I do feel it was more the confidence and form part that let them down. They’ve just been poor in 2019.

      1. Its just a real shame how Ireland have shaped up in 2019 as you would have wanted them proving tougher oppostion in both the 6N and RWC – adds to the spectacles. Funny as had there been a Lions tour in 2018 I would have put 4 or 5 of the Irish pack as starters….their pack for me has really gone backwards as a unit.

        1. This makes me sad –

          So Joe did indeed change things up for the 6 nations as he felt he needed to give Ireland that bit more. I wish he asked me because I was genuinely wondering if Ireland would come up short once big teams started really started building up for the world cup and I thought about it some more and decided to myself that it would be more damaging to change things up.
          Sometimes you have to be grateful for what you have. Ireland were playing great. No need to try and fix something that isn’t broken.

          AB’s would have crushed us anyway. Squidge rugby has great analysis of it on Vimeo.

          I would worry though that someone had Joe’s ear to make him change things up. It reminds me of when we got knocked out by ARG. There was media spin (some might call it other teams subversive tactics) that Ireland weren’t using the sideline as an extra man and were covering too much there. An voila , miraculously, Argentina had 2 men lined up on the sidelines soon after when we played them… He took the bait. That’s one thing I worry about with Ireland’s management. They’re too trusting of media who are often operatives who are just trying to play Ireland.

          The future still looks pretty bright. No excuses. Rugby isn’t going anywhere. Some refs need to go though.

  6. As someone who flew all the way to Japan to have the game I was going to watch cancelled. I was one of the first people to kick off about how it would affect the world cup then on. But this analysis is ridiculous. The stats from the Australia game just show that their tactics were awful, constantly trying to run the ball from their 22, not kicking for territory. Played right into England’s hands and they shut them down nearly every time. Finishing well when they had the chance. Previous results show the same scenario. Ireland unfortunately did not even turn up to their game until the end, and mainly most their key players had a pretty poor game. I believe sometimes having a break can be a disadvantage due to getting out of the game mentality. The way I think it could have massively affected it is the scenario where England played Wales and France played Australia. This would potentially change the tournament completely. And also the possibility of injuries to key players.

  7. I really want to disagree with this, but it is difficult. The piece you are missing is:
    SA play last group game on Tue against a poor Canada team who were 14 men for 44 mins then have 11 days rest. Previously they played 40mins against a 14man Italy.
    Japan play last group game on Sunday against a tier 1 team who were for for at least 30mins, which both need to win to qualify for QFs, then have 6 days rest.

    Think WR must have a serious think about tournament format. 5 team pools and the huge gulf in standards between top and bottom teams certainly APPEAR to have a material impact on the tournament outcomes. Match cancellations would further exaggerate this.

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