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Opinion: Holding The Rugby World Cup Draw Three Years From Tournament Is Nuts

Opinion: Holding The Rugby World Cup Draw Three Years From Tournament Is Nuts
Colman Stanley
By Colman Stanley
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World Rugby, when compared to a governing body such as FIFA - who are often slow to innovate and to improve laws which may be holding back the sport  - is an organisation that tends to tackle outstanding issues with relative haste and seriousness.

This makes it all the more odd that the date from which the world rankings are taken and used for the World Cup groups, has not been changed.

Currently, the draw for the groups is made in December, almost two years before the start of the September World Cup, while the rankings used for the groups are ones taken from 11 months prior to the group draw.

For the 2023 edition the tournament, the draw was made on December 7 2020, with rankings used to determine the seedings taken from January 1 of that year.

While World Rugby have not given an explicit reason for making these decisions so early in the World Cup cycle, they are most likely made to give ample time to organise tickets, travel packages, fixtures, and bases for teams.

This, however, makes it even more farcical and begs the question why did they not use the rankings from December 2020?

Even if they did, this is still much to early to decide something of this magnitude.


It is an issue that has always been talked about in rugby circles, but one which has never seriously impacted the quality or the integrity of the tournament, which points to why World Rugby have yet to address it.

The problems with the current structure have never been so glaringly obvious as they have been in this World Cup cycle, with the four best teams in the world - both in ranking and in reality - are on one side of the draw [plus a fifth ranked and resurgent Scotland].


The most striking take aways from the images below are the ranking of Wales, who are considerably worse off currently than at the beginning of 2020, and Ireland, who have just won a no.1 vs no.2 in the world crunch match.


World Rankings As Of February 13 2023

World Rankings On January 1 2020

READ HERE: What The New Directives From World Rugby Mean For The Game

The football World Cup is abundantly larger than the rugby version yet the draw for the 2022 FIFA World Cup was made on April 1 last year, with the rankings taken from March 31 - just 236 days before the tournament began, as Simon Borchardt of SA Rugby Magazine writes.

If the rankings were taken from the end of the Autumn Internationals in the year before the event, it would give organisers and fans nearly 300 days to plan.


If this was too much of a time constraint for World Rugby, then even taking the seedings from the end 0f 2021 would considerably more sensible.

Speaking on this week's The Times' Ruck Podcast, Alan Dymock, editor of Rugby World Magazine, rightfully referred to the situation - which will see only two of Ireland, France, New Zealand, South Africa, and Scotland in the semi-finals - as 'bizarre'.

Dymock may have been premature in stating that we will see 'at least four of the best teams in the world duking it out to try and get past the quarter-finals', as much can change in the build up to a World Cup, something which Ireland have found out to their detriment on a number of occasions in the past.


However, to ensure that we get the most fair and accurate representation of quality on each side of the draw, the rankings on which the groups are based must be taken from a later date.

The quality of September's tournament, which is shaping up to be one of the most competitive World Cup's ever, will most likely be hurt by World Rugby's lack of initiative.

And, if the process is not amended, future editions of the competition will also suffer.


SEE ALSO: Brian O'Driscoll Calls For Sneaky Ruck Law To Be Taken Out Of The Game

brian o'driscoll ruck law wales scotland six nations

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