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Thursday, April 20, 2017

An Early Look At The World Cup Draw


The Eagles will get a better sense of who they might play at the World Cup, assuming they qualify, on May 10th when the tournament draw is held. For those that aren't aware, 12 teams, the top three finishers from each pool at the 2015 World Cup, automatically qualified for the 2019 tournament. Those 12 teams have been split into three bands according to the current World Rugby rankings. The other 8 teams that will fill out the field will come from regional qualification and then finally the repechage. The Americas has two spots up for grabs so if the U.S. beat Canada in their series this summer they are in. If they lose then they will have to mostly likely play Uruguay next year. Since this format was adopted the Eagles have yet to beat Canada in the first round to qualify as Americas 1.

With that in mind who is in what band and who might the U.S. play? The top four teams at the moment are New Zealand, England, Australia, and Ireland. The U.S. will play at least one of these teams. The scheduling of the past few tournaments has meant that traditionally the Eagles haven't always played their top team against one of these sides because no matter who they throw out there it is likely a loss so the thought is to save energy, often on a short turnaround, for a winnable match. Japan may have thrown that logic out the window but most Tier II countries adopt this approach.

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In band two is Scotland, France, South Africa, and Wales. South Africa are the team the Eagles obviously want to avoid here. Even though they haven't had a good year the Springboks are always considered World Cup contenders. Saying that, Scotland, France, and Wales would be big accomplishments for the Eagles if they were to provide an upset. The U.S. did lead Scotland at the half in 2015 but will need more. Ideally, the U.S. would like a match against Scotland or Wales but would be big underdogs in either.

Band three is the most interesting. Japan, Georgia, Italy, and Argentina are all in this group. The U.S. would love to be paired with Japan or Georgia. They have had success against both teams recently. Italy and Argentina would be tough. With Argentina's inclusion in this group there will be another group of death. Imagine a pool of New Zealand, South Africa, and Argentina. That would be tough for any opponent and one of those teams would miss out on the quarterfinals.

The best case scenario for the Eagles would be a draw with the likes of one of the top four, Wales, and Georgia. The U.S. would still be up against it to beat anyone of those teams (minus Georgia) but it would give them the best shot at pulling off an upset. Additionally, if the repechage winner or Africa 1 was put in the same group as the Eagles they might like their chances of winning a match, possibly two.  For now we'll just have to wait and see what happens. 

2 comments:

  1. I'd wager that Italy would be less of a threat than a Japan team made largely up of players with 2-3 years of Super Rugby under their belts. Italy has tended to stay the same while Japan seems to be on the ascent.

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  2. It's amazing that the draw is held closer to the previous world cup than to the next one (before any of the eight places up for grabs has been determined) and a much smaller tournament requires triple the lead time as that run by FIFA. Oh well, FIFA may be a lot more competent, but their world cup is being built by actual slaves, so it could be worse.

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