Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Junior World Championship: Uruguay undefeated but miss out on Final

Photo HK Rugby
Questions were raised over the points scoring system used by the IRB in the Junior World Trophy as the only side in Pool B not to drop a match during pool play will not feature in the final. Uruguay defeated Japan and Namibia in addition to drawing with Canada but it will be the Japanese who face Pool A winners Tonga in the final. Japan won two out of three matches but finished with four bonus points to win the group.

Pool A winner Tonga is to face the Pool B winning Japan on April 19 in the IRB Junior World Trophy Final. Tonga got there by winning two of its three matches. The Tonga defeated Hong Kong 37-0 and the USA 28-22 but lost 34-10 against Georgia who finished third. The USA defeated both Hong Kong and Georgia but lost 28-22 against Tonga to finish on 10 points equal with Tonga. 

Uruguay was undefeated. Los Teritos defeated Japan 33-28 and Namibia 16-13 in addition to drawing 18-18 with Canada. As such Japan had 12 competition points compared to Uruguay´s 10. Consequently Uruguay will face the USA in the Bronze final, also played on April 19. Georgia will face Namibia to determine who finishes fifth while Canada will play Hong Kong in the battle to avoid the wooden spoon. 

With Japan in the final based on tries scored rather than the winning and losing of matches have the organizers made a fatal mistake? Put differently, Would fans, the press or the global governing body tolerate this in a Rugby World Cup? For instance  Pool D of Rugby World Cup 2015 will feature France, Ireland, Italy, Canada and Romania. If Ireland were to defeat Canada, Italy and Romania but lose against France and fail to collect any bonus points then it would scored twelve. Italy could thus advance if it were to lose to France and Ireland by less than seven while scoring four tries in one of the matches and also defeatnig both Canada and Romania and scoring four or more tries.

Under such circumstances Ireland would finish with 12 points in the Pool compared to Italy with 13. Italy would have won 50% of its matches and Ireland 75% but the side with more wins would be eliminated. Would this be deemed fair or acceptable?  

Such a scenario is not altogether impossible let alone unlikely. Italy has defeated both France and Ireland since Rugby World Cup 2011. It also has its matches against the two countries separated by a fixture against Canada in the middle and the Italians will play exclusively on weekends, thereby having sufficient rest and recovery to obtain at least 13 competition points. 

Have Uruguay been mistreated by a system which, intentionally or not, awards teams for losing by small margins rather than winning tight contests? 


  1. Yes this could happen in the RWC. But the system was also in place for the last RWC as well and already had a potential bearing on the outcome of the pools. Eg Scotland in Pool B missed the bonus point vs Georgia, and Pool D between France and Tonga. Also it is already being used in other competitions, including for example the recent European Nations Cup that decided the European automatic qualifiers and indeed in the Rugby Championship that Argentina participates in. Sorry, but this is not a new thing in rugby and teams should be aware of how the sytem works by now. If Uruguay had not let Canada score their last gasp try and draw that game, then they would've been in the final. It's as simple as that. The sytem also rewards teams for being able to score a bunch of tries, something the Uruguay team should've been acutely aware of. Japan had far more attacking threat and made it count in their 2nd and 3rd matches. Uruguay did not. They play a more conservative style. If that's the way they want to play, no problems, but they should know it can come back and bite them. Sorry, but this article is a complete red herring and nothing else but.

    *NZ was undefeated in FIFA WC 2010 pool play but also failed to make it into the knock-out rounds. It irked me that many NZers went around saying how great it was that the team went undefeated. Others like myself said yeah great, but they didn't do what they had to do to make it further when they had the chance so they still failed!

  2. Simon, the system is know, but it's still very unfair. Teams with more wins and less defeats should be ranked first, and that didn't happen with Uruguay. It must be changed now.