North vs South, North vs South, Rugby, Rugby History, Rugby World Cup, Uncategorized

South vs North

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.

Graphic showing the Southern Hemisphere Dominance in the Rugby World Cup
Created by Joshua Parsons

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.

Video documenting the Southern Hemisphere rugby dominance at RWC 2015
Video published by World Rugby on Youtube

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.

A video showcasing the subtle difference between Northern and Southern Hemisphere rugby.
Video published by Rugby Zone on YouTube

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.

Video discussing the resurgence of Northern Hemisphere rugby
Video published by BT Sport on YouTube

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.

Rugby, Rugby History, Rugby World Cup

How to win the Rugby World Cup?

As Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2019 closes in its time to explore what it is going to take to win the hallowed Web Ellis trophy. In this post I am going to look what various bits of data can tell us and see what the experts have to say about the topic. I will unpack the build up and the conditioning, as well as the mindset of a RWC winning team. Finally, which teams embrace these characteristics as a RWC winning team. Lets find out…

1999 Wallbies RWC winning captain John Eales gives his take on what it takes to win a RWC
Video published by World Rugby on YouTube

Preparation

As the famous quote by Benjamin Franklin goes, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Most of the teams will have been preparing for the world cup since the end of the last world cup. There would have been a lot of introspection and looking at where they went wrong and how they can best improve themselves so that they can be at the top of their game come kick off in Japan. Some teams would have had more time to prepare than others and some will just be happy to have qualified for the tournament. However, every team that is there will have had to have put in some sort of work to realize their goals at this years RWC. Famous rugby coach Eddie Jones wrote this of his preparations with the England side in an article for the Japanese Times, “A well-prepared team can beat a team that’s better physically and athletically. We did that with Japan against South Africa in 2015. If you’re better-prepared tactically, you can beat other teams. When it comes to the World Cup, you have to maximize your resources and that means maximizing your preparation.”

A video highlighting England’s preparations for the RWC.
Video published by England Rugby on YouTube

Experience is key.

In terms of winning a RWC every team that has won a world cup has had one thing in common and that was that they all had a wealth of experience. Previous winners in the professional era of the game have never had lower than 633 total caps in their team. The lowest average number of caps in a team was the Australian winning side of 1999, which averaged 42,20 caps. The highest average number of caps in a World Cup winning side was the New Zealand side that won in 2015 who had an average of 66,40 caps. This is a key thing to highlight as the more familiar players are with the team and the high pressure that test rugby brings the more successful they are likely to be.

Figure showing average number of caps for every RWC winning team since 1999.
Created by Joshua Parsons

What do the stats say?

Any team that has ever won the RWC has won all of their games at the tournament and so if you want win the tournament you should start by aiming for that 100% win record at the tournament. The world rankings mean very little going into a RWC, which will give hope to some of the lower ranked teams, however the only team to have won a RWC and not been ranked number 1 before the start of the tournament was South Africa. Team form between world cups is not a great indicator, which is similar to world rankings. A thing to note from the statistics was that teams that generally did well at the tournament started peaking just before the tournament. Teams that have won the RWC generally have had ad least 5 world class players. This stat tells us that a coach can build a team around 5 players. These players would be in key positions such as hooker, lock, 8th man, and the halfbacks.

THE 1014 RUGBY team analyse the numbers behind winning the RWC
Video published by Spark Sport on YouTube

With all this being said I think that this years RWC is going to be one of the most exciting world cups in world rugby history. This is due to the way that most of the international teams have been playing over the past two years. Most games between top teams are very close and tough to call, which makes it more exciting and thrilling to watch. I think that this world cup will have us on the edge of our seats and there maybe a few upsets on the cards. Ultimately it comes down to more than just numbers, stats and preparation. The key thing is that you have an unbreakable team that is able to stand up and play when it is most important. You need players that have that determination to fight for each other and get over the line. As they say rugby can be a funny game sometimes. At the moment if I were to pick a favorite it would definitely be Wales due to their recent form and the fact that they have managed to beat South Africa consistently over the last 4 year cycle.