After an exciting first week of rugby World Cup action, we got to see all 20 teams compete across 12 scheduled matches. The highlights included a clash of the Southern Hemisphere Titans New Zealand and South Africa (23-13) and the epically fought battle for a potential quarter final place between closely ranked France (8th) and Argentina (9th) which was decided by a late drop goal (23-21). Let’s not forget the big shock of the tournament, so far, which saw 18th ranked Uruguay defeat 10th ranked Fiji (30 – 27) which until this point, held ambitions of qualifying for the quarter finals.
The weekend matches are representative of the contrasts in the tournament. Saturday brings us three encounters of established first tier nations taking on significantly lower ranked teams from the second tier across Pools A, B and C. Sunday on the other hand, presents us with two potentially very close encounters in Pool D, starting with the surprise package of the tournament so far as Uruguay take on a Georgian side looking to pick up their first victory of this tournament. The weekend then rounds off nicely with the closest matched encounter of the 2019 Rugby World Cup so far as Wales take on Australia.
For this weekend’s games we’ve decided to use the ranking scores to provide predictions on likeliness of the win/loss outcomes of each of the games. Consequently, it is easy to contrast the most unevenly matched game of the weekend (South Africa vs Namibia) with the most evenly matched encounter (Australia vs Wales). Enjoy!
Saturday 28th September
Argentina (ranked 9th) vs Tonga (ranked 17th)
These teams both lost their opening encounters to the Pool C favourites France and England respectively. Argentina put on a stirring performance against France which improved their ranking score but ultimately left them on the wrong side of the result. Now, they need to win all their remaining games to have any hope from progressing into the quarter finals. They will be looking to start this against the Tonga side, who themselves are looking for a good performance following their below par loss versus England which combined with other results has led them to lose ranking score and one ranking place since the tournament started.
(Ranking based Victory Predictions: Argentina 85%, Tonga 15%)
Japan (ranked 11th) vs Ireland (ranked 3rd)
Ireland looked very strong in their first game of the tournament vs Scotland and improved their ranking score consequently. The hosts Japan also won their first game although they didn’t look quite as convincing and will almost certainly find this encounter with Ireland to be a very tough. That said, they were victorious against their highest ranked opponent in the pool four years ago (South Africa) and with a boisterous home crowd behind them, who knows what might be possible.
(Ranking based Victory Predictions: Japan 13%, Ireland 87%)
South Africa (ranked 5th) vs Namibia (ranked 20th)
The only two African teams in the tournament meet in the most unevenly matched game of the tournament so far. It is very difficult to predict anything other than a South Africa victory in this match, however they will have to win by a comfortable margin, so it does not affect their ranking score adversely. Similarly, if Namibia can limit the damage and lose by a smaller margin than predicted, their ranking score will increase. So even with a game as unevenly matched as this one, as far as rankings go, there are still things to play for, other than simply who is the victor.
(Ranking based Victory Predictions: South Africa 98%, Namibia 2%)
Sunday 29th September
Georgia (ranked 15th) vs Uruguay (ranked 16th)
Uruguay’s 30 – 27 victory over Fiji was the underdog story of the World Cup so far. Our ranking model had them going into that match at a meagre 11% chance of success, but they fought gallantly to get the job done. As a result, they effectively doubled their ranking score and gained two ranking places to be just below a Georgian side who have been losing ranking score since the start of the tournament.
Uruguay remain the underdogs for this match, although by a much smaller margin than at the start of the tournament, and victory in this match would help them rise further up the rankings to possibly go above their opponent. Georgia will be looking to stop them and get their own World Cup and ranking back on track, which could lead for a fascinating encounter.
Australia (ranked 6th) vs Wales (ranked 4th)
Both teams won their opening games of the tournament although Wales’ 43-14 a victory over Georgia was more helpful for their ranking than Australia’s 39-21 victory over Fiji. Wales not only gained in ranking score but overtook South Africa to take 4th place in the rugby world rankings.
Australia’s rankings score has decreased slightly after the start of the tournament. Despite this divergence in ranking between the teams, the game remains the most competitively balanced of the tournament so far, and the result of this match could be critical in deciding which team wins the Pool.