Earlier today, the draw was made for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Pool C is arguably the most difficult of the lot, as England, France and Argentina are grouped together. They will be joined by a Pacific Island nation.
However, as the draw was being made, there was the same question on everybody’s lips. Why is the draw being made so early?
With 863 days to go to the first game of the tournament and eight qualifying spots still up for grabs, surely the draw should be made closer to the World Cup?
Isn’t it a bit early to be doing a draw for a World Cup in 2019? I’m always left confused by rugby.
— Dan Kilpatrick (@Dan_KP) May 10, 2017
One major flaw of the system has now come to the surface.
Pool A consists of Ireland, Scotland, Japan and two qualifiers (Europe 1 and Playoff Winner).
Pool C consists of England, France, Argentina and two qualifiers (Americas 1 and Oceania 2).
Oceania has two automatic qualifiers, taken from the 2016 and 2017 Pacific Nations Cups (PNC). Should Fiji defend their crown this June, or at least win one game, they will likely claim the ‘Oceania 1’ slot, and be inserted into Pool D alongside Australia, Wales and Georgia.
The second placed team in the PNC across 2016 and 2017 qualifies automatically as ‘Oceania 2’, while the third-placed PNC team will face Spain (who finished third in the 2017 Rugby Europe Championship) in a home-and-away tie to determine who qualifies as ‘Playoff Winner’.
If you’re still awake after reading through these permutations, you will have noticed that the loser of Tonga vs Samoa this year may be at an advantage when it comes to the World Cup draw.
The winner will be faced with the difficult prospect of Pool C, while the loser will, should they get over Spain, end up in Pool A.
Granted, neither Samoa nor Tonga will go out to lose the game, as they will not want to risk losing to Spain in the play-off. However, assuming the probability arises that both countries reach the World Cup, the loser of the tie will have a clear advantage.
Credit to eagle-eyed Reddit user Tavtab for pointing this situation out.
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