A Rugby World Cup History Lesson

History is full of lessons. Apparently. I wouldn't know. I've never learnt from my mistakes and will continue to make them for as long as they feel good at the time. But unlike me, Phonic Monkey puts much store in such things and in this piece he dives into the archives in a bid to determine who will win the Rugby World Cup...

Which country would you consider to be the best performer at the Rugby World Cup?

Bam…just like that. A question that has been the topic of countless discussions in pubs stretching from Dublin to Dunedin involving games played from Telstra to Twickenham, and I don’t even provide the readers with any preparatory synopsis? Well tough titties - are you a weasel winger or a tough piggie?! OINK! I thought so. Keep up with me, piggies.

I suppose all you Kiwis would hark the All Black’s record of making at least the semi finals on each and every tournament. Or those referee tackling Springbok supporters reminding everyone that without those pesky apartheid sanctions, they would have won an additional two World Cups. Or those Aussies who claim the crown is theirs because the Wallabies play crap for three consecutive years, but somehow manage to put it together just in time for Bill. Even Les Bleus who claim that they are most deserving because they eat snails, rotted cheese and amphibian limbs. (How this has anything to do with William Webb Ellis is anyone’s guess).

Okay, reasonable analysis dictates less subjectivity and greater objectivity. A points system based on where the game was played (that is, taking into account home/away support), the opponent’s strength, number of tries scored, ground conditions, atmospheric readings, blah, blah, blah. Bugger that - too much effort, too little time.

No, the best way would be to rank each and every team with their progress. The fact that some teams had home ground advantage is their lucky day, as far as I am concerned. In any case the World Cup revolves around the planet and every team gets their go except for Argentina and Japan and they don't count because they're crap. So a points system based on how far into the tournament a team progressed would be the most transparent and fair indication of performance. Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.

If you fail to make the knock-out stage, you don’t deserve anything, let alone a return plane ticket. Thus, I have neglected any country who has failed to reach the quarter finals. The quarter finals therefore presents the opportunity for a single, solitary point. If you win that you are destined to play in one of two semi finals – not a bad effort, 2 points. Win that and you are in the final before a packed stadium and 40 billion TV viewers. 3 points to the loser and 5 points to the champs. Seems fair? Stiff cheese if you think otherwise.

So it became necessary to aggregate each team’s performance over the five separate tournaments. I would be lying if I said that I was surprised with the results. Did you know that Canada made the quarter finals in 1991? Thanks to South Africa’s omission, they were pooled with France, Romania and Fiji and only lost to France. Bit of a piss weak pool if you ask me. Pool C had Australia, Western (Manu) Samoa, Wales and Argentina fighting over the two qualifying spots.

The same could be said of the 1995 tournament where Wales famously missed out for the second consecutive time – they were pooled with New Zealand, Ireland and Japan. These days the seedings ensure that no more than two countries from SANZAR, the home nations and France are grouped in the preliminary rounds.

Drum roll please.

And the title goes to……………………the Wallabies!!!

They have played in three finals winning two, losing to Wales in one semi final back in 1987 and were booted out by that fluky Rob Andrew 50 metre sideline dropkick at Newlands. Come to think of it, it is not the first time Australia have lost in Cape Town to a fluky dropkick (and no, I am not referring to the kicker).

New Zealand are the bridesmaids with the second highest aggregate followed by England and France. In order to incorporate South Africa’s deeds, I have also calculated an average score by dividing total points by the number of tournaments competed by each country. Australia still top the list followed again by those pesky All Blacks, but those giraffe eating yarpies make it to number three, replacing the northern hemisphere plodders.

And what does my crystal ball suggest for the 2007 tournament? Australia will extend its lead after another timely All Black choke!

Full table below.

Comments welcome.

Australia-1987-Semis-2pts - 1991-Won-5pts - 1995 -Quarters-1pt - 1999-Won-5pts - 2003-Runner Up-3pts - Total 16pts, Average 3.2 from 5 appearances
New Zealand-Won-5-Semis-2-Runner Up-3-Semis-2-Semis-2-14pts, 2.8 from 5
South Africa-----Won-5-Semis-2-Quarters-1-8pts, 2.7 from 3
England-Quarters-1-Runner Up-3-Semis-2-Quarters-1-Won-5-12pts, 2.4 from 5
France-Runner Up-3-Quarters-1-Semis-2-Runner Up-3-Semis-2-11pts, 2.2 from 5
Scotland-Quarters-1-Semis-2-Quarters-1-Quarters-1-Quarters-1-6pts, 1.2 from 5
Ireland-Quarters-1-Quarters-1-Quarters-1---Quarters-1-4pts, 0.8 from 5
Wales-Semis-2-----Quarters-1-Quarters-1-4pts, 0.8 from 5
Western Samoa---Quarters-1-Quarters-1-----2pts, 0.5 from 4
Fiji-Quarters-1---------1pt, 0.3 from 4
Argentina-------Quarters-1---1pt, 0.2 from 5
Canada---Quarters-1-------1pt, 0.2 from 5