Is The System Broken?

A lot of people are not too keen on the setup of this year's World Cup, to be honest I was okay with it. I'd have preferred to see 4 pools of 4 but that's out of my hands, this strange system seemed to be working, up until the point that arguably one of the biggest moments of injustice I have seen in the sport for a long time happened. Samoa qualify on points difference and points difference alone, again I have no problem with this.

Ireland however will be left feeling filthy after they were sent home, why? because they didn't win all 3 of their games, I get that if Ireland would have been in pool B they would have been in a similar position to the likes of Scotland and Samoa, but to see them out of the competition simply because there was only one spot up for grabs is absurd. There was different ways this could have been resolved to leave people feeling a little less bemused by the situation, let's explore some of the alternatives;

A play off: Say for example the 3rd place team in Pool A takes on the 2nd place team in Pool C and 3rd from Pool B takes on 2nd from Pool D. I get this would mean trying to accommodate an extra game somewhere in the week, then again I didn't say my plan was perfect, this is part and parcel with setting up an uneven tournament. It would have made for an exciting couple of games and given some of the smaller nations a fairer chance of qualifying, it would have been Lebanon vs Italy and Samoa vs Ireland and whoever wins go through, simple.

Two more teams: Here is the far easier alternative, just add two more teams, the likes of Jamaica, South Africa, Canada and The Cook Islands would have loved to have competed. In some of the weaker groups they could have given it a go, and worst case scenario they could take a bit of a hammering in the quarters against stronger opposition. They wouldn't really care all that much, it would help to expand the game in lower ranked countries.

To put things as simple as possible Samoa were gifted a place in the next round simply because the tournament tree is setup to have the higher ranked sides progress and the lower ranked sides to be filtered out in the quarterfinals to have a tier 1 and 2 semi-finalists. I get that the board are trying to create a high quality tournament but in their current setup they are just enabling the game to go stale by ensuring the same sides end up taking on each other.

Part of the magic of these big sporting events is seeing a complete underdog go out and shock the world, imagine the following Rugby League could have gathered in Ireland had they gone through. I would love to have seen one nation just emerge from absolutely no where and try their hand at causing an upset, yes there was the shock victory by Tonga, but was that all really much of a shock? A lot of people predicted this could and would happen but no team made it through, maybe with the exception of Lebanon, that was a true shock or that wasn't predicted.

Essentially Samoa made the next round simply because of the Rugby League world rankings, Italy, Ireland or Fiji could definitely have pinched that third spot based on how they played so far. Scotland, with the greatest of respect, only had that 4th spot in the world rankings due to the fact they participated in the four nations and got a draw against New Zealand. To me the system isn't broken but it definitely requires some fine tuning.



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