And then there were four! A weekend of breathtaking Rugby for the World Cup Quarter-Finals

What an exciting tournament this has turned out to be! With underdog victories coming from the most unlikely of places, and some of the strongest teams playing the quality of rugby that leaves little doubt as to how they’ve earned their positions at the business end of the tournament.

The teams that progressed to the semi-finals were all predicted by our model. Three of the games went largely to form regarding margin of victory, but one performance, raised the roof in terms of ranking implication. Read on to uncover more.

England 40 – 16 Australia

England kicked off the weekend (pun intended!) with an impressive victory over old adversary Australia. England’s performances during the tournament, so far, have allowed their ranking score to grow significantly. Although, with the result of this latest

Australia’s World Cup may be viewed as being slightly disappointing, and not just because of their exit in the Quarter Final. The graph of their ranking score suggests they put in some strong performances, but ultimately their ranking score decreased over the tournament duration. This is in notable contrast to similar ranked teams, such as Wales and South Africa, who have increased their ranking scores during the tournament. It is a period of change for Australian rugby with Michael Cheika stepping down as coach [1].

New Zealand 46 – 14 Ireland

With 2nd ranked England confirmed as the first semi-finalist, the winning team from this game knew they faced at least two formidable opponents en-route to the final. First, they had to face each other.  Going into this match there was an open question as to who would prevail, with the top ranked team New Zealand, facing off against the 3rd highest ranked team Ireland.

Against highly respected opposition, New Zealand put on one of the greatest showcases of the Rugby World Cup. They dominated the game and came away with an impressive score line to match. Such a score line fed into the ranking model and produced the highest absolute ranking points redistribution the World Cup has seen so far! So much so, that it eclipses the redistribution that occurred after Japan beat Ireland on the 28th September. To put this into perspective, on that day Ireland lost 0.7 ranking score but after this result, they lost 0.9.

New Zealand have been competently, and steadily, adding to their ranking score since the start of the tournament, although our graph clearly shows the jump in ranking score (of 1.3) for them following their Quarter Final match. This demonstrates that shock results are not just about surprise winners. If a team who is expected to win does so in an emphatic fashion, this can be as shocking, or more so, than any underdog victory.

New Zealand’s ranking score is now over 20 for the first time in this tournament, and we sit poised on the edge of our sofas in anticipation of the high stakes affair that will play out next Saturday between the two top ranked teams of New Zealand and England.

France 19 – 20 Wales

Coming into this match Wales were favourites to win but very aware of the threat from a sometimes erratic and sometimes brilliant French team. And France certainly didn’t fail to live up to their billing in a match which contained nearly all the drama one could expect from a game of rugby.

Wales eventually capitalised from having an extra man on the field following a reckless red card offence by French second row Sebastien Vahaamahina. This finished off a somewhat disappointing campaign from the French side, where they failed to convert promise into results.

That said, if they can get their act together to deliver on such promise, then France certainly has the potential to rebuild and equal the might of the great French teams of the past.

From a ranking perspective, Wales slightly underperformed during this match, much as they did in the last game, losing ground on 4th placed South Africa. They will have the opportunity to redeem themselves however, in the very closely ranked semi-final match next Sunday.

Japan 3 – 26 South Africa

The Japanese dream finally came to an end, but what a journey it has been!

Starting the tournament ranked in a respectable 11th place, many expected their final Pool game against Scotland to be the crunch decider of whether they could reach the first World Cup Quarter Final in their history.

That match proved to be decisive as Japan scored a dramatic victory against the backdrop of a potential typhoon-based cancellation. What’s more remarkable was that they defeated one of the favourites Ireland, and in so doing topped the Pool, after winning all of their games.

Although they eventually came undone in the Quarter Final game, seen off by a powerful South African outfit, whose performances in this tournament have been an inspiration to us all.

Following a nervous start in their first game against Russia, Japan went on to exceed expectations in their next three games, which included shock defeats of Ireland and Scotland. Their loss to South Africa was of a margin to be expected going into the game, but Japan has done themselves proud. Whether they can kick on from here depends on a multitude of factors, but with the country newly captivated in rugby, who knows where this might lead over the coming years?

Despite losing their opening game to New Zealand, South Africa have gone on to make ranking progress in this World Cup. There has been a titanic tussle with Wales for the 4th ranking spot and South Africa appear to be establishing their mark in this position. The differences between the two teams remains remarkably small and the victor of their upcoming semi-final match will likely take the spoils of the ranking position as well as a place in the Rugby World Cup Final. The battle for ranking supremacy and the Webb Ellis trophy is certainly hotting up! One thing is for sure – there will be fireworks…

[1] https://www.rugbyworld.com/tournaments/rugby-world-cup-2019/michael-cheika-quits-wallabies-coach-105138

>