I know what you’re thinking.
When Namibia plays Canada in Kamaishi on 12 October, who should we be cheering for?
(And, yes, Ned will be in the stadium providing extra advice to the referees as the Fifth Match UnOfficial.)
Luckily I have just the right tool for the job.
Way way back in June 2010, I created the International League of Pain: a single numbered list, running from the team you most wanted to win, down to the team you most wanted to lose.
At a glance you could see which team you would support in any particular match: the higher-ranked team to beat the lower-ranked team. Simple genius.
In the last nine years I have added a number of enhacements that will allow me (and you, if you’re interested) to follow the emotional rollercoaster of RWC2019 in its full technicolor glory. It’s fairly full-on rugby tragic, so MrsDavy should stop reading about here.
(And around about now she’s realising why not much has been done for the last nine years on The List of Things Ned Must Do Around The House.)
The first step in The New and Improved International League of Pain is the ranking described above.
Sounds simple, right?
In fact there are 2,432,902,008,176,640,000 possible combinations for such a ranking. That’s 20! for the mathematically inclined. Or about 350 million combinations for each and every person on Earth.
With those sorts of numbers you could go down a lot of rabbit holes trying to finesse perfection, and still be going when the final whistle blows for RWC2043.
When actually it shakes out pretty quickly, I reckon.
- New Zealand Obviously.
- Japan Because they’re going to be great hosts, and I’ll be real happy joining in with the party. And the Brave Blossoms have come on leaps and bounds in recent years, playing a good brand of footy. Not to mention beating the Boks at RWC2015 was a thing of rare beauty.
Then I can slot in the blokes at the bottom.
- Canada Perennial underperformers. More money, facilities and opportunities than the other Tier 2 teams, and still can’t get their shit together. Over it.
- England Grrr. They have still never beaten the All Blacks in a World Cup. Don’t @ me.
- Australia Michael Cheika. That is all.
Back to the top of the table, and local sentiment means the three Pasefika teams get slotted in. For me, the order is to favour the underdog:
- Tonga Local supporters absolutely lit up RWC2011. All the odds against them, but they’ll play with pride and passion.
- Samoa Struggling to reboot the giant killing form of earlier Cups, but on their day a beautiful combination of pace and power.
- Fiji Nothing quite as joyful as the Flying Fijians in their pomp.
Following the underdog theme, I’ll put four Tier 2 teams in next, because this is their once in every four years chance to test themselves against the Tier 1 teams:
- Georgia Some of the best scrummagers in the game, befitting a place that had an indigenous version of proto-rugby (lelo) in the wayback days.
- Uruguay Still the little brother to Argentina in Latin American rugby, but can bring some flair to a game that is too often grounded in English dour.
- Namibia Another little brother thing, and still searching for a first win at a Rugby World Cup.
- Russia A bit of a black box mystery, but given their country’s massive sports infrastructure it would be good to see them make progress and generate more global reach for the game.
Okay, that leaves me eight teams to slot in between 10 and 17. Rough and ready, because this is gut-feel territory.
- Argentina The honest grafters of world rugby, from a country obsessed with the second best form of football, so they get less of the talent and money going around.Brilliant on their day, but they’ll struggle for depth.
- Ireland Two wins against the All Blacks in recent years. A coach of genius. A couple of world-class players. And go into the tournament ranked #1 in the world. I hope they play their best rugby and don’t go back into their shell.
- South Africa Coming good at the right time, after a long period of wandering in the desert.
- Italy Food wondrous. Wines fabulous. People beautiful. Rugby average. Simply have not made the most of being in the Six Nations competition.
- Wales The good and bad of Warren Gatland’s coaching style is that they play a relentlessly procedural style. Gets wins, not fans.
- France You can usually rely on them to play one brilliant match per Cup, but not two, which is why they’ve been beaten finalists three times. This time, given their coaching bollocks, I’m not sure they’ll even get that one good game. They really should do better given all the money in their domestic game.
- United States Too much chest-beating, not enough hard graft expanding the base of their game.
- Scotland A bit like Canada, they’re starting to piss me off with their lack of performance at World Cups. The only reason they get a better than decent diet of Tier 1 matches (which keeps them hanging on by their finger nails) is the accident of history and geography. Time to piss or get off the pot.
With that list settled, I can now confirm that I will be yelling my head off for Namibia (8) over Canada (18) at Kamaishi. Easy peasy.
Next: putting some emotional weight to the rankings.
And then: scoring each of the 40 pool matches for heart versus head.
And finally: producing an emotion chart of how I think RWC2019 is going to go for poor Ned, and doing a scenario check.
Spoiler alert: Ned gets very grumpy indeed if things don’t go his way.