The only Northern Hemisphere team to have ever lifted a Rugby World Cup (RWC) was England in 2003. On the other side of the spectrum the Southern Hemisphere sides have dominated at the RWC for the past three decades with Australia winning two (1991 & 1999), South Africa winning two (1995 & 2007), and New Zealand winning three (1987, 2011 & 2015). Can this current trend be broken at this years World Cup or will the Southern Hemisphere again rein supreme over the North. In this post I am going to give opinion on which teams are looking most likely to dominate at the RWC this year.
King in the South
Due to the way that rugby is approached in the Southern Hemisphere where the youth grow up in a very rugby orientated culture. In the South kids are born with a rugby ball in their hands and to reinforce that a lot of emphasis is put on rugby at schools. The school rugby scene is very big with high-school and university games being broadcast on national television. A big emphasis is put on the sport from a young age. Naturally this creates a situation where, the youth coming through the system have a great understanding of the game.
Due to the climate in the South the game that is played is very different to way it is played in the North. This is mainly due to the climate as in the South rugby is played in summer and winters are usually dry, which means less kicking and more running rugby. On the other hand in the North there is more emphasis on goal kicking from penalties and this comes down to the wet climate, which makes it harder to play a running style of rugby. This means that players in the North and players in the South for the most part are playing two different brands or types of rugby. The South being quite fast and the North being quite slow and more orientated around strength rather than skill. With this being said Northern Hemisphere teams have started to play a more attractive styled running rugby in recent years and this has led to some close encounters between teams hailing from the two hemispheres.
Are the tables turning?
Recent years have seen Northern Hemisphere teams go from strength to strength. This can be seen in the recent change at the top of world rugby rankings, where Wales have gone number one replacing New Zealand who slipped up their final Rugby Championship games against Australia. To go a long with this the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand in 2017 showed promise for the North and they drew the series with the All Blacks. At the helm of the North’s resurgence are Southern Hemisphere coach’s. Warren Gatland from New Zealand is head coach of both Wales and The British and Irish Lions which are the two teams that have played a major role in putting the North back on the radar. Joe Schmidt another New Zealander has also played a major role as head coach of Ireland who have beaten New Zealand twice in the past three years. Eddie Jones of Australia is also showing promise as the Head coach of the English national side who narrowly lost to New Zealand at the end of 2018.
If there was a time for things to change it would be this year as we see how the North has put itself back on the rugby map. As it stands three out of the four teams, which the numbers are favoring to win the Web Ellis trophy hail from the Northern Hemisphere. These teams are Ireland, England and Wales, along with the only team from the Southern Hemisphere being New Zealand. Therefore, this could be the year that we finally see the tables turn once and for all in favor of Northern Hemisphere sides. At the end of the day only time will tell if the Northern Hemisphere have bridged the gap.