The online home of Women's Rugby

World Cup: Does form predict success?

Form means a lot coming into a major tournament like the World Cup. But can it predict success? We’ve crunched the data for all of this century’s tournaments and come up with one predictable World Cup finalist… and one, perhaps, less so.

They've had memorable meetings at sevens - are they due a piece of history in 15s too?

The warm-ups tests are over. Discounting from the non-test game between England A and Spain next Saturday (12.00 KO, Brunel University) the next test match will be the one that launches the World Cup – England vs Spain at the UCD Bowl on 9th August.

In the three years since the last World Cup in France there have been 120 tests, played by 28 teams – incidentally the smallest number of tests played by the smallest number of active teams before any World Cup this century.

The top ranked team, based purely on results, in the past three years – and leaving aside two teams who only played once in the last three years, only one team has a 100% record – are Asian Champions, Japan:

  

P

W

D

L

F

0

%

1

Japan

9

9

0

0

368

67

100.00%

2

Zimbabwe

1

1

0

0

39

0

100.00%

3

Germany

1

1

0

0

36

0

100.00%

4

New Zealand

11

10

0

1

385

149

90.91%

5

Spain

8

7

0

1

340

74

87.50%

6

Netherlands

6

5

0

1

145

57

83.33%

7

Kenya

2

1

1

0

12

11

75.00%

8

England

30

22

0

8

762

405

73.33%

9

France

22

15

0

7

489

220

68.18%

10

Ireland

20

12

0

8

374

260

60.00%

11

Russia

7

4

0

3

233

122

57.14%

12

Belgium

7

4

0

3

127

197

57.14%

13

Canada

14

7

0

7

399

264

50.00%

14

Kazakhstan

2

1

0

1

52

27

50.00%

15

Italy

16

6

0

10

210

319

37.50%

16

Fiji

3

1

0

2

44

110

33.33%

17

Wales

17

5

0

12

207

368

29.41%

18

Uganda

2

0

1

1

11

12

25.00%

19

Switzerland

8

2

0

6

95

286

25.00%

20

Hong Kong

11

2

0

9

148

386

18.18%

21

Scotland

19

3

0

16

152

598

15.79%

22

United States

10

1

0

9

125

348

10.00%

23

Sweden

1

0

0

1

3

10

0.00%

24

Papua New Guinea

1

0

0

1

10

37

0.00%

25

Singapore

1

0

0

1

7

40

0.00%

26

Zambia

1

0

0

1

0

39

0.00%

27

Czech Republic

5

0

0

5

35

202

0.00%

28

Australia

5

0

0

5

38

238

0.00%

However, this is not unusual. Asian Champions Kazakhstan came into the 2014 World Cup with a 100% record, and in 2010 the same team had the third best record among the qualifiers. Unfortunately for Asia, despite these impressive pre-tournament records, the Asian Champions have never finished better than 8th.

Nevertheless, form does seem to predict one thing. The team going into the tournament with the best record have won the World Cup – apart from 2006 when England had the best record, but lost in the final to New Zealand.

Which would suggest that New Zealand will be playing for the title in around six weeks’ time.

But who will they play?

Perhaps predictably it has almost always been the non-Asian team with the second-best pre-tournament record - except in 2014 when France could only finish third (and it took a moment of Canadian brilliance from Magali Harvey to defeat history).

Thus, this all not only suggests that New Zealand will win the 2017 World Cup – but they will do so beating… Spain in the final. Or, at the very least, Spain will reach the last four.

And the other semi-finalists? Harder to say – but in this century’s world cups either the third or fourth “in form” team has made the semi-finals (but only once both), so a good run for either England or France. 

Or can you prove anything with statistics?