All the group matches have been completed in the World Cup with the top two teams from each of the four groups moving on to the next quarter-final knockout stage. On Saturday, England will play Australia while New Zealand plays Ireland. On Sunday, Wales plays France while Japan plays South Africa.
A major typhoon Hagidis hit Japan during the tournament forcing organizers to cancel some matches and treat them as drawn games. Whether this might have affected the group results is hard to say. Intransitive discussed the implications of the cancellations
The major rugby playing nations are split into tiers depending on their strength.
Tier 1: New Zealand, England, France, Australia, South Africa, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Argentina, Italy
Tier 2: Japan, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Uruguay, Georgia, USA, Canada, Namibia, Russia, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Brazil
There are eight teams (Belgium, Germany, Chile, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, South Korea) in Tier 3 (also called Development One), and all the rest are placed in the Development Two category.
We see that Scotland and Argentina and Italy were Tier 1 teams that did not qualify for the final round while host nation Japan is a Tier 2 nation that did make it.
One of the interesting things is that the Ireland team is made up of players from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. These are the two parts of the island that are at the heart of the Brexit problem since Northern Ireland is part of the UK, and with a long history of sectarian religious conflict between them. And yet, they seem to have fielded a common team for some time. I guess the traditional animosities get erased on the rugby field.
Also interesting is that the nations that make up the UK (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) field separate teams and do not compete as a single team in the World Cup.
Another interesting thing is that three of the teams in the World Cup have tiny populations (Fiji 900,000, Samoa 200,000, Tonga 100,000) and yet they field top quality teams, which is really impressive. Fiji placed third in its group of five while Samoa and Tonga placed fourth. It seems like they would be more formidable if they fielded a combined team, somewhat like in cricket where the West Indies is not a single country but made up of 15 different independent Caribbean nations, some tiny, brought together just for the purpose of fielding a single team that has been a major powerhouse in international cricket.