A few months ago, I wrote about the unfairness to some teams of the draw for World Cup qualification for football taking place more than a year before the European matches began. In rugby there is a similar situation, one that is arguably worse.
The 2015 Rugby World Cup was drawn on December 3 last year, nearly three years before the competition begins. Qualification wasn’t complete so eight of the teams who will take part aren’t even known. However, the problem lies more with the 12 participants that we do know, the teams ranked one to 12 in the world.
This is how those 12 teams ranked on December 3, 2012 and how they rank now, just over three months later after only 15 matches involving these 12 teams have been played since the draw:
This means that Pool A now contains the teams ranked third, fourth and fifth in the world. Pool D has no teams at all from the world’s current top five – sixth ranked France’s rivals are Ireland and Tonga. Of course, it might all change again by the time the competition starts in September 2015.
The same situation occurred at the last Rugby World Cup when Argentina were ranked amongst the top four teams in the world when the draw took place but had fallen to ninth by the time the competition began. Their group rivals England and Scotland had both moved ahead of them but Argentina still managed to finish just ahead of Scotland after a nail-biting final pool match.
The danger of holding World Cup draws so early is that the teams which contest the competition are very different to those that went into the draw. This could lead to lop sided draws in which one of the best teams in the world does not reach the knockout phase. It is feasible that pool A at the 2015 Rugby World Cup could contain the reigning Tri Nations and Six Nations champions along with the second best Northern Hemisphere team. One would not survive the pool stages. Surely no one wants that, do they?