Saturday, March 15, 2014

RWC 2015: Georgia confirmed for Pool C, Romania for Pool D

Today´s match in Tbilisi confirmed Georgia as the European Nations Cup champions and a place in Pool C of Rugby World Cup 2015. In defeating Romania 22-9 Georgia secured the fourth spot of the group which wll also include Argentina, New Zealand, Tonga and the winner of this years Asian Five Nations, likely Japan. Romania will compete in Pool D which is to feature three members of the Six Nations and Canada. 

A full house was on hand at the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium in Tbilisi to see Georgia crowned champions of the European Nations Cup and to win a favorable draw in the World Cup. The Lelos have avoided the tougher draw that will see Romania begin the World Cup by facing France and Ireland with only a three day turn-around. 

The task awaiting Romania is far from celebratory. The Oaks are to not only face two elite opponents early on but are also to have a tough ending to the campaign as Romania will face Canada on October 6 and Italy on October 11. The four day gap will require to rotate players for what are to be the two matches that the team will be targeting in the tournament. Romania would have preferred these matches spread to have a different opponent between them. 

Georgia has therefore won more than just a friendlier set of opponents at Rugby World Cup 2015. It has won a far more negotiable match schedule. Indeed not only is facing Tonga better than facing Italy but doing so on the opening weekend of the tournament and then facing Argentina six days later will enable Georgia to put everything into the opening match, a game that Georgia is more than capable of winning.

The match allocation is far from ideal for Georgia though as the Eastern European nation will also have four days recovery time between playing for the third and fourth times. Georgia will face New Zealand on October 2 and Africa 1, possibly Namibia, on October 7. All of Argentina, New Zealand and Tonga will finish their pool matches later and, as such, have more days for their four pool matches. Indeed it is Georgia and Africa 1 whom will have the least number of days.

The controversy is set to be a significant factor during the pool stages and will again decrease the chances of an upset result in pool play. Georgia, though, will now be one of the most likely to alter the script as the Lelos can prepare and aim for two pool victories in their matches against Tonga and Africa 1 and also look to give Argentina a real challenge. 

In facing Argentina Georgia will meet the South Americans for third time in as many Rugby World Cups. The match against New Zealand, on the other hand, will be the first ever test match between the nations.  Georgia has faced Tonga twice previously with the sides winning once each in 1999. Romania has previously faced Canada, France and Ireland at two Rugby World Cups and Italy once. 

1 comment:

  1. Romania certainly have got a harder task. They'll need to build some good depth. Same problem is for Canada and even for Italy to a lesser extent. France and Ireland have the upper hand with much better depth to carry them through the pool games. It's going to be a very exacting exercise for both Romania and Canada and they might even have a bit of a conundrum about whether they let go of aspirations against say one of Ireland or France to target the other tier 2 team and Italy? Also Italy has to of course back themselves and put 100% into trying to beat either France or Ireland but does that then mean with injuries and tiredness they then are more suseptible to falling to Romania and/or Canada?

    Sorry, but I don't subscribe to the Georgians being hard done by with that turn-around. They can play their best vs NZ and give it their best shot. The African reps will be easy beats and Georgian should be able to put out a largely B team (still have some regulars in subs too to just play say a quarter/third of the game) and still collect a bonus point win. That's the luxury of having the African rep in that pool. BTW, goodness knows what's going to happen when the African rep plays NZ. It could be very, very ugly for the African team! It'll be a major victory if they keep it under 100 points. It's got blowout of the RWC written all over it. (Pool A repechage v Australia and/or England and/or Wales would be the main competition for that title!) Japan, keeping its 1st XV for Scotland four days later, vs South Africa could also be quite ugly (And that turnaround for Japan IS a major travesty!).

    Quite frankly, I'm of the opinion this issue won't improve until more unions are capable of playing at a RWC and the event goes to twenty-four teams and therefore back to four team pools. The five team pool system puts a lot of stress on the depth of the lower-ranked nations with the extra one game. It's only one extra game but you can see from past RWCs that the lower teams come into the last game pretty tired and banged up.

    At the moment where at about 22 teams that can realistically play at an RWC. So not far away from the minumum 24 needed to expand the tournament. Hopefully by 10 years time or so, some of the mid 20s-early 30s ranked teams will be at the level of lower tier 2 strength in the recent past. I.e they'd still get walloped at a RWC as tier 2 nations have but at 70-100 points rather than 150+.

    Paul, this could be the basis of an article (Should Argentina 2023 be a 24 team event?), or on this occasion I'd be happy to contribute something as well if you'd allow.