Harding’s Analysis: RWC2019 QUALIFYING OPTIONS
By PETER HARDING
NUKU’ALOFA-May 24: 1:53pm(Nuku’alofa Times): The analysis of the pools for Tonga moving towards the upcoming Rugby World Cup must take into account two issues, the first is the opportunity to progress to the quarter finals and the 2nd is to come out of the pool with automatic qualification for the 2023 tournament.
All inferences are based on the historical performances of the teams and on the assumption that the performances of the teams will not vary erratically over the next 2 years.
It is evident that the 2 pools that give Tonga the best option for progression out of the group are pool A & pool D.
In pool A Tonga could potentially beat all teams in the pool, with a very strong chance of beating Scotland who will be favoured to gain the 2nd qualifying place in the pool.
Tonga have not been beaten by Japan for many years and Europe 1 will be Romania who will not provide the opposition they traditionally supply when in Romania.
Pool D teams are also eminently beatable with a Wales team having the majority of its “big guns” old or retiring in the next few years and potentially in transition.
Nobody can be sure how Australia present themselves or what state they will be in, but they are a quality team and a repeat of 1973 may be a step too far.
Georgia are difficult but lessons have been learned and I firmly believe we will improve more than Georgia over the next 2 years.
Pool B provides a very good option to requalify, but progression will be difficult. Defeat of South Africa is possible if we play them in the first game, but near impossible as they progress. Japan’s win was an aberration.
We would have to beat SA, Italy, Namibia and potentially Russia if they are beaten in the qualifier and go to the repecharge.
Pool C will be near impossible to progress from and also presents large problems in requalifying.
Tonga has 4 qualifying options from this point: Option A: Tonga wins both games and Samoa beat Fiji allowing Tonga to finish 1st in the Oceania play offs.
This places Tonga in Pool D. Option B: Tonga wins enough point to finish 2nd in the Oceania play offs. In this scenario, Tonga must beat Samoa and Samoa beat Fiji.
This places Tonga in Pool C. Option C. Tonga does not progress from the Oceania play-offs and plays Europe 2 home and away for qualification.
This will likely be Russia with Romania Europe 1.
Winning qualification through this process will place us in Pool A. Option D. Tonga loses the play-off against Europe 2 and goes into the repechage.
The repecharge consists of the loser of the play-offs, the 3rd ranked team from the Americas, winner of the game between Asia rugby number 1 and the Pacific Cup winners (PNG, Cooks etc.), and Africa 2.
Winning the repecharge will put us in Pool B. PREFERENCES: Everyone is fully aware there are no guarantees at a tournament such as the RWC.
The above information is provided to show clearly all permutations for our team to progress to the 2019 tournament. Start your engines folks and draw your own conclusions.
Peter Harding is the Senior High Performance Consultant for Tonga Rugby as well as the Adjunct Assistant Professor, Exercise Science, Faculty of Health Sciences & Medicine, Bond University
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