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How Southern Hemisphere superpowers have rest of the world in the palm of their hand

28 Oct | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
How Southern Hemisphere superpowers have rest of the world in the palm of their hand

The Rugby Championship sides have enjoyed another dominant World Cup - and the stats prove that their superiority is stronger than ever before

Regardless of how the final and third-place play-off pan out this weekend, it is the Southern Hemisphere that will take a clean sweep of gold, silver and bronze from the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

And following the failure of any Six Nations side to reach the last four for the first time in the history of the tournament, the debate rages on about whether or not the gap in quality between the two Hemispheres is widening.

The basic facts make grim reading for all rugby fans north of the equator.

By the time this tournament is through, Southern Hemisphere sides will have lifted the trophy on seven out of eight occasions – with England’s extra-time triumph in 2003 the only exception.

But are the Southern Hemisphere superpowers actually that much better than their Northern neighbours, and, if so, is their dominance really strengthening?

We assessed the respective World Cup performances of the best countries from each side of the globe who have realistic ambitions of lifting the Webb Ellis trophy, before assessing their records both individually and combined.medal-tableTo make it into our study, a team must have qualified for the knock-out stages in at least half of the World Cups that they have appeared in.

Predictably, that left the ‘Big Four’ of New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina, and the traditional ‘Five Nations’ in England, France, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.

All of whom, incidentally, make up the nine top-ranked countries in the world.

The results certainly offer some sobering insight into exactly where the difference between each Hemisphere lies.

Occasional upset aside, the European teams have never had too much problem in overcoming Tier 2 nations to make it out of their pool.

In fact, the Five Nations have had more of their representatives reach the quarter-finals (33) than their Big Four counterparts (26) – albeit while having one extra team in their corner, and two while South Africa were excluded from the first two tournaments for political reasons.

However, it is during the knock-out stages, when the competition begins to separate the best from the rest, that the Northern Hemisphere falls behind.

After all, Ireland are still yet to make it beyond the last eight, while Scotland’s sole victory in the same stage came nearly a quarter of a century ago in 1991.wallace-linkIn total, the Five Nations have a win rate of just 39 per cent in their quarter-finals, compared to the Big Four coming out on top in 73 per cent of theirs.

This trend continues when looking at the last four, a stage of the competition that Wales have never progressed beyond having lost both of their semi-finals 24 years apart.

Overall, the Five Nations have won just six of their 13 semis with a win rate of 46 per cent, compared to the 53 per cent enjoyed by the Big Four who have prevailed on 10 out of 19 occasions.

Yet although England and France have often managed to hold their own by qualifying for three finals each, it is at this last hurdle where the disparity in each Hemisphere’s ability to stand out on the biggest stage of them all becomes most apparent.

The two representatives from the Five Nations to have made it all the way to the final have won just one in six, giving them a success rate of 17 per cent – a stark contrast to the 70 per cent enjoyed by the three of the Big Four to have reached the final stage.tindall-linkYet these numbers, of course, do not tell the whole story – since there have been plenty of occasions when Northern and Southern Hemisphere sides have knocked out each other, thus obscuring their standing globally.

Therefore, to really analyse the discrepancy between Hemispheres, we must examine their head-to-head records – not that it provides much comfort for the North.

Out of 62 meetings between the Five Nations and the Big Four at Rugby World Cups, Northern Hemisphere teams have emerged victorious just 15 times, with a win rate of only 24 per cent.

To put that into perspective, Argentina – with the poorest record of all Southern Hemisphere sides – still have more head-to-head wins with their seven than England, who have the most Big Four scalps with six.

Overall, of the 37 occasions that the Five Nations have been defeated in the knock-out stages, it is Southern Hemisphere sides who have been the perpetrators a remarkable 68 per cent of the time.

Even more incredibly, it is also Southern Hemisphere sides that have ended the hopes of their Big Four companions on 14 of the 22 occasions they have been knocked out of the tournament – with the Five Nations responsible for just 36 per cent of their eliminations.

But while the gap between the Hemispheres has always existed – with the Big Four coming out on top in terms of head-to-head meetings at every single tournament – how does the current chasm in quality compare historically?w-mOf the seven games between the big guns from each Hemisphere at the 2015 tournament, the Five Nations failed to register a single victory over their Big Four rivals – the first time Southern sides have achieved a 100 per cent winning record.

And while Wales pushed their opponents closer than the rest, England and Scotland both suffered comfortable defeats in the pool stages before France and Ireland were well beaten in the quarter-finals.

As a result, the Southern Hemisphere sides have never enjoyed as large an average winning margin over their Northern rivals as they have done in 2015, with a considerable 18-point advantage.

The Southern superpowers may always have enjoyed the upper hand, but the numbers would suggest that the disparity in quality is as wide as it has ever been.

When it comes to staying competitive, the two Hemisphere are currently worlds apart.

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