Rugby is an attritional game. The physical nature of the sport means players’ bodies are subject to huge stresses during a game which means they need long rest periods to recover for the next fixture.
The condensed nature of the Rugby World Cup dictates that some teams will be forced to play with short turnaround periods which undoubtedly puts them at a disadvantage. We have already seen Japan struggle to follow up their incredible victory against South Africa when they faced Scotland 4 days later. Similarly, the Welsh team seemed to visibly wilt in the recent Fiji game, which isn’t a surprise coming a few days after the monumental victory versus England.
Theblitzdefence decided to look at which teams have the longest gap in terms of full days’ rest between their first and last pool fixture and which had the shortest turnaround between pool games. The diagrams below show the results.
You may need to click on the graph to see the full details.
Total number of full rest days between first and last pool game
Shortest full rest days gap between pool fixtures
What can we conclude?
It is fairly clear that England, Ireland and Italy have the most beneficial schedule in terms of giving them the best recovery times and the longest period between the first and last pool games.
What these figures don’t show is that these three teams also benefit from consistent gaps between matches which allows maximum recovery time. By contrast Australia have 3, 5 and 6 full day turnarounds between games and Wales have 4,5 and 8.
The fact England played on the opening Friday night fixture and then the regular Saturday night slot means their gap days are a consistent 7, 6 and 6 days. Ireland’s rest days are 7, 6 and 6 while Italy’s are 6,7 and 6.
The second conclusion when we look at the total rest days is that it is skewed toward the tier 1 nations. Four of the five teams that have 19 full days between their fixtures are tier 1 nations (Ireland, England, Italy and France).
In a tournament where games are often decided by small margins World Rugby needs to consider making the tournament a more level playing field for all the teams concerned.
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