The 19th team (Africa 1) to qualify for next year’s World Cup will be decided next week on the 18th August.
Depth and fitness will be essential for teams’ success at next year’s World Cup. But by analysing the schedule, we can clearly see that this will be a greater concern for some teams than others.
This article covers the Tier 2 winners and losers that Gareth and Steven didn’t have the time to cover. You can review the qualifying process here.
USA (Biggest losers):
In one of my previous articles, I pointed out that the schedule has improved USA’s chances for two potential upsets over England and Argentina. Mainly because both of these teams face the USA with a short four-day turnaround. However, they have the least number of days between their first and last pool match out of any Tier 2 nation with 17 days (almost a whole week less than the hosts with 23 days). And they also face Tonga with a four-day turnaround unlike Tonga’s seven. This match is by far their best chance for a win at next year’s World Cup.
Therefore, even though the schedule has improved the USA’s chances for two upsets, if they fail to put out good performances against their Tier 1 opponents to at least gain some confidence, they could be in danger for another winless World Cup.
As mentioned above, Tonga has a huge advantage going into their last pool match against the USA. They also have the second most number of days between their first and last pool match out of the Tier 2 nations with 21 days. Their longest turnaround is eight-days for their match against France where France play this game just four days after their clash with the USA. This is an opportunity for Tonga to repeat their success in the 2011 World Cup against the very same nation.
Japan (Biggest winners):
When you’re the hosts of the Rugby World Cup, you have the home ground advantage. And quite often, you have the matches scheduled favourably for you. This is definitely the case for 2019. Japan has the most number of days between their first and last pool match than any other nation with 23 days. They also play their last pool match with an eight-day turnaround against a tired Scotland just four days after Scotland vs Russia. This match should conclude the Party Pool with an epic climax.
Apart from their privilege to play in the opening match, the schedule is quite unfavourable for Russia. With all respect to Russia, the only matches they have a reasonable chance of winning is against Japan and Samoa. Unfortunately, after playing in the opening match, they will face their only other reasonably winnable match just four days later. So the schedule has increased the risk of a winless World Cup for Russia.
With just 18 days between their first and last pool match, Samoa will be even more disappointed to be the last Pacific Nations Cup team to qualify. After Ireland’s recent success of winning the Grand Slam and a test series in Australia, Samoa will likely to be targeting a win over Russia, Scotland and Japan to repeat their success of 1991 and 1995. Unfortunately, these are their first three opponents (in order) which have been scheduled in a space of just 11 days.
Italy is officially a Tier 1 country but most would think they look like a Tier 2 side in their pool with the All Blacks and the Springboks.
But after their unlucky pool draw, they found out they have a reasonably lucky schedule. It’s fair to say that the back-to-back World Champions are probably unbeatable for Italy. So they will be targeting their match against South Africa, which they have an eight-day turnaround for, to progress to the Quarter Finals.
Georgia’s minimum target will be to beat Fiji and Uruguay. Based on world rankings and recent results, they should beat Uruguay comfortably and they should be evenly matched with Fiji. But unfortunately, they will play Fiji after a four-day turnaround whereas Fiji has an eight-day turnaround for the match. Furthermore, Georgia is one of the very few teams that will play their first three matches in a space of ten days.
As mentioned above, the schedule favours Fiji for their match against Georgia. Also, Fiji’s last pool match is a clash against Wales. This allows Fiji to give this last pool match absolutely everything to repeat their upset over Wales in the 2007 World Cup to progress to the Quarter Finals. This clash will take place in a World Cup for the fourth time in a row.
With all respect to Uruguay, the only matches they have a reasonable chance of winning is against Fiji and Georgia. But unfortunately, these matches are scheduled just four days apart. They also only have 18 days between their first and last pool match. Just 1 day more than the biggest losers from the schedule, USA.
Author: Kaito Goto