Is the Rugby World Cup 2019 Draw Fair?

The Rugby World Cup 2015 draw was a handicap for Tier 2 nations what ever World Rugby said about it being fairer. You could argue that Japan could have reached the quarter-finals if they had been given a fair crack. So have World Rugby done a better job this time around?

The World Rugby Chief Executive Brett Gosper has been quoted as sayingWe have worked hard to deliver a match schedule that improves on the Rugby World Cup 2015 model, delivering a more balanced spread of matches across the four weeks of pool matches and greater rest periods for the emerging rugby nations ahead of matches against the top-ranked teams. These are the foundations that will assist the world’s top players to perform to their best in Japan.

You can watch me talking about it here or continue reading below:

So let’s see if they have really done that. The thing that really hurt teams in 2015 were the 4 and 5 day turn arounds. In 2019 no team has more than 1 short turn around. Compare that to 2015 where Tonga, Fiji and Canada all had 2 short turn arounds making a hard task almost impossible. It’s no coincidence that 2015 was the first time no Pacific Island team finished in the top 3 of a pool.

4 day turn arounds 5 day turn arounds Average Duration
Tier 1 – 2015




Tier 1 – 2019




Tier 2 – 2015




Tier 2 – 2019




Whilst things look better for the Tier 2 nations it looks like things have got worse for the Tier 1 sides. However when you look at the details all except 1 game have the Tier 1 sides  facing either the 4th or 5th seed in the pool. The exception is a funny one and it looks like payback. Scotland will have to face Japan 4 days after facing Europe 1. That’s not as hard as Japan had it in 2015 when they faced Scotland 4 days after beating South Africa but still it’s one hack of a coincidence.

For the Tier 2 sides again most of the turnaround games are against the 4th and 5th seeds in the pool. The 2 hardest turnarounds look to be Americas 2 (probably Canada) who will have to play Fiji (seed 4) then Georgia (seed 3) 4 days later and for the weakest team in the competition who play Scotland (seed 2) then Japan (seed 3) 5 days later. Yup Japan are on the easy end of 2 short turnarounds, some nice home advantage for you there.

Whilst we are talking about home advantage Japan have the longest duration for their pool games which will take 23 days. The longest anyone had in 2015 was 22 days and it’s 2 days longer than anyone else in 2019. Also Japan are the only side with no turnarounds less than 7 days (there were 3 sides that got this in 2015). World Rugby is clearly giving the host nation the best possible chance of doing well and you can understand that as it helps with the atmosphere around the tournament.

If we look at the total duration of games for the Tier 1 vrs Tier 2 sides the average looks the same as 2015 and there’s only a day in it. However 2 tier 2 sides have a duration of 17 days and 4 more have 18 days. Only South Africa amongst the Tier 1 teams has 17 days and Argentina have 18 days. So whilst the difference doesn’t look much there will be a greater toll on the Tier 2 Nations players. The 2 sides that get it the toughest are the USA with 6, 7 and 4 day turnarounds and Repechage Winner with 6, 6 and 5 day turnarounds. Those 2 sides do have a positive though in that 2 of their 3 Tier 1 games see the Tier 1 team having a short turn around so could we see an upset? Unlikely but Argentina face England and then the USA 4 days later, so that might be the most likely.

Overall World Rugby have done a better job this time around but there are still some anomalies. Europe 1 and Fiji will have played 2 games before the Repechage Winner and USA kickoff their first game for example. However we don’t live in a perfect world and some compromises had to be made.

If you’re looking for a side to surprise people have a look at Tonga. They have England, France, Argentina and the USA in their pool. France and Argentina are looking vulnerable at the moment. With 6, 8 and 7 day turnarounds Tonga have one of the best schedules.

After I wrote this I found a really good diagram of the fixtures on Reddit.

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