The pool stages of the 2015 Rugby World Cup are finished and we have our quarter-final pairings. Just about everyone who has any interest in the oval ball game will have an opinion on who is going to win, whether or not New Zealand will somehow throw it away and how does Ian Madigan keep his hair looking so damn good?
There have been 224 tries scored so far and we’ve still got some cracking games to come. Bryan Habana and Julian Savea lead the way at the top of the Tryscorer charts so far with five tries apiece.
We dug through the stats of the previous World Cups to see did the eventual Top Tryscorers do all their work in the pool stages or did they have a major say in the knockout stages? With the exception of Jonah Lomu in 1995 who scored five tries after the pools.
In every other instance the top try scorers in the World Cup have scored between one and three tries after the pools. Mainly because all the teams that are there to simply make up the numbers are gone. Teams like Namibia or Japan ship tries like there’s no tomorrow. Case in point when Marc Ellis finished as joint top scorer in the 1995 World Cup with seven tries. He scored six against Japan in a pool game.
As teams head into the last eight, they come up against other tier one teams. And Scotland. The tries don’t flow as freely as although some challenges look easier than others, the chances of running up a huge score are diminished. The pressure is huge and players are conscious about mistakes. Most games, especially the final, tend to be settled by the boots of the kickers.
The question that we now turn to, apart from why do people get their face painted at a game is can anyone catch Habana or the favourite Savea? You have to look at the draws that the two teams face. New Zealand have France while South Africa have to play Wales. Then you have to take into account how far they’ll get. Wales have only won twice since 1994 with South Africa winning 21. France have beaten the All-Blacks seven times since 1994 with 19 All-Blacks wins and one draw. Based on recent form you would have to say Habana and Savea will be getting at least two more games, but anything can happen.
The odds of for Savea and for Habana aren’t the most appealing, but the for Nehe Milner-Skudder is the best outside bet. With four tries to his name so far the young winger has been very impressive so far. He’s only one try behind the two leaders and he makes things happen. A bit like his namesake James of Liverpool he has the ability to change a game with one chance. He is the best bet at very good odds and a cheeky fiver to make the World Cup a bit more interesting? Sure why not?