Idle Speculation

Ireland’s stunning win over Australia on Saturday has done more than make a nerdy rugby blog look silly, or a well-fed pundit look intelligent, it has thrown the tournament wide open. As it stands, it looks like all 3 Tri-Nations sides will be in one side of the draw, with the cream of the Northern Hemisphere in the other.

This situation gave rise to some frenzied water cooler speculation in Egg Chaser’s place of employment today – will South Africa or New Zealand throw games in order to engineer being on the (perceived) easier side of the draw? Now, Egg Chaser might be bitter and twisted, but he is no conspiracy theorist. However, he is a coolly logical fellow, and thus thinks if a situation mutually benefits 2 parties, then it has a pretty good chance of happening. So lets examine the issue, and assume everything else goes to form:

South Africa:

If they beat Samoa, they top the pool and will play Australia followed by the winners of New Zealand/France, just to get to the final. Tough. If they lose to Samoa, there is actually a potential for them to go out (as 3 teams will have 3 wins and 1 defeat) or even top the pool anyway (as they have a bonus point and lots of tries in the bag from the Fiji game). Samoa need to win anyway, no choice for them.

Verdict: No-brainer, the Boks must beat the Samoans – if they lose, they may still win the group, or possibly even crash out

New Zealand:

The winners of the NZ/France game essentially have a free pass to the semi-final – this is an obvious plus, but can lead to being undercooked (a particular concern for NZ given their history). And when they get there, its going to be either a South Africa side on a major roll, or an Australian team rejuvenated by a tough victory over the Meateaters – neither an enticing prospect. For the loser, its England followed by Wales or Ireland. Of the 2 scenarios, France will be desperate for the first one to avoid England, who they routinely fall to (especially in World Cups) – they don’t fear anyone as much. New Zealand, on the other hand, may not care as much – losing may actually give them a more straightforward journey to the final – they might rather take on SA or Oz in the after their opponents have had 2 huge tests, than after beating Scotland/Argentina by 40 points.

Verdict: if France beat New Zealand, the path to the final looks rosier for both

So, there you have it – the incentives are laid out. We aren’t expecting an Austria-Germany 1982 scenario here, just pointing out that France beating New Zealand benefits both sides in terms of getting to the final. I’m looking at the 6/1 available against France and pondering …….

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2 Comments

  1. if france beat the all black then all of NZ will go into mourning and they may even call off the RWC early.

  2. I am a conspiracy theorist and I have a feeling the French won't be going all guns for this one – they don't have fond memories of the Argies either! Whoever tops the group, England to be eliminated at the quarters at 4 to 5 looks safer to me.

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