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Rugby World Cup: update on the race to qualify for the quarter-finals

One month after its start, the group stage of the Rugby World Cup will deliver its verdict. After the final series of eight matches – which begins Thursday October 5 with the duel between New Zealand and Uruguay and will end on Sunday with the meeting between Fiji and Portugal – the eight teams qualified for the quarter-finals will be known.

In each of the four groups, two nations will obtain the precious sesame. As they enter the home stretch, Wales (group C) and England (group D) are already assured of reaching the next round thanks to a sufficient number of points.

The others will still have to earn their place. Some are in an excellent position, like the XV of France, undefeated in its first three outings. In most groups, however, the gaps are very small, and certain qualifications could come down to the wire. According to the regulations of World Rugby – the international federation – six criteria make it possible to decide between two teams with the same number of points:

  • the winner of the match between the two tied teams;
  • the team with the greatest difference in points scored and conceded over all of its matches;
  • the team with the greatest difference in tries scored and conceded over all of its matches;
  • the team having scored the greatest number of points in all of its matches;
  • the team having scored the greatest number of tries in all of its matches;
  • place in the World Rugby rankings.

If three or more teams have the same number of points at the end of the group stage, the best ranked of the three will be determined using the same criteria. The federation will first look at whether a nation has beaten the others, then, if necessary, which nation has the greatest difference in points scored and conceded over all matches, etc. The process is repeated to determine the next ranked team.

Group A: the Blues must finish the job

Winner of its first three matches, the XV of France leads Group A with 13 points, ahead of New Zealand and Italy (10 points each). For the Blues, the situation is quite simple: if they beat the Azzurri or obtain a draw, Friday October 6, they will qualify for the quarters, and will even finish, for sure, first in the group. Before the last day, the All Blacks are also virtually qualified because they won their meeting against the team with the same total points as them, Italy.

Still, a two-team tie, or even a three-team tie, could take place between the nations still in the running for qualification: France, New Zealand and Italy. In the event of a victory without an offensive bonus for New Zealand over Uruguay, and a success for Italy over France with a defensive bonus point for the Blues, the three teams would have 14 points.

In this configuration, the All Blacks would finish first because they would have the best difference between points scored and those conceded. With a hypothetical victory over the Tricolores, Italy would then win the second folding seat for the next round.

Even if it seems highly improbable, Uruguay can also mathematically reach the quarter-finals. This would require a victory with an offensive bonus over the All Blacks… of at least 80 points! At the same time, the Blues would have to beat the Azzurri without the latter taking any bonus points.

Group B: South Africa and Ireland in pole position

Two places for three. This is the situation in Group B, where the South Africans, Irish and Scots are fighting for qualification for the quarters. The Springboks occupy the head of the group (15 points) before the final straight, but have played all their matches. The XV du Trèfle (14 points) and the XV du Chardon (10 points) face each other on Saturday. The South African title holders will be there in the final stages, barring an improbable scenario: a victory of at least 21 points for Scotland with an offensive bonus against the Irish also obtaining the offensive bonus point.

It remains to be seen who will accompany them. In the event of a victory or a draw, Jonathan Sexton and his teammates will grab the second ticket. But if the Scots win, they could undermine the politeness of their neighbors. In this situation, the two teams would have 14 points, and the Chardon XV would come out of it since they would have beaten their direct competitor – Ireland – during their confrontation.

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But you will also have to be interested in the bonus points for this meeting. If Scotland wins without the offensive bonus, and Ireland snatches the defensive bonus, the “men in green” will advance to the next round. Note that the second in this group B will most likely face France in the quarter-finals, provided that the Blues finish, as expected, in first place in their group.

Group C: Fiji should accompany Wales

In group C, the matter seems settled. Regardless of their result against Georgia, Wales will be in the quarter-finals of the World Cup no matter what, as in the last three editions of the competition. Australia currently occupies second place, which looks like an ejection seat. The Wallabies have already played all their matches, but are only one point ahead of Fiji (11 against 10), who will play their final match of the first round against Portugal, the supposed team weakest of the group.

Read also: Fiji take big step towards quarter-finals after struggling win over Georgia

The Flying Fijians only need one point to confirm their qualification. Indeed, a tie with Australia at the end of the group stage would be in their favor thanks to their surprise success against Eddie Jones’ men earlier in the competition. Players from the Pacific can even eye first place in Pool C. To do so, they will have to win with the offensive bonus point against Portugal, and count on a defeat without bonus for Wales against Georgia.

Group D: a seat for two between Argentina and Japan

As in Group C, we already know one of the two qualified for the quarter-finals in Group D: England. But unlike Wales, the XV de la Rose is certain to conclude the first round in the lead. The English are five points ahead of Argentina and Japan, and will retain first place – even in the event of a defeat without bonus against Samoa, combined with a victory with offensive bonus for Argentina or Japan -, thanks to to their victories over the Pumas and the Brave Blossoms.

The second qualifying place will certainly be played out between these two teams, who have the same number of points going into the final sprint. No need to take out the calculators this time, since the Japanese and the Argentines face each other in a sort of round of 16. The winner will qualify for the quarters, with a small advantage for the Pumas: thanks to a better difference between points scored and points conceded since the start of the World Cup, they are the ones who would advance to the next round in the event of a draw on Sunday.

Only a science fiction scenario would disrupt this duel for the second qualifying ticket, because Samoa also has a tiny chance of reaching the final stages. The Pacific players should win with the offensive bonus against the English and count on a draw between Japan and Argentina, without offensive bonus, for the three teams to finish tied, with 11 points. It would then again be the difference between the points scored and those conceded which would decide between the three teams. Manu Samoa would then qualify… if they beat the XV de la Rose by at least 29 points.

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