RWC: How The ‘Pool Of Death’ Was Formed
Bernard Foley was the architect of England’s crushing defeat on Sunday but the blueprint for their humiliating World Cup exit had been drawn up by fellow Wallaby Kurtley Beale three years earlier on a cold December day in Cardiff.
The versatile back scored all 14 of Australia’s points in a dramatic 2012 victory that condemned Wales to a world ranking of ninth and led directly to the formation of the toughest pool in World Cup history.
So while Foley’s 28 points led Australia to victory at Twickenham, it was Beale’s one-man show that triggered a situation where three of the game’s giants were battling it out for only two quarterfinal spots.
Organisers World Rugby cited vague “operational and logistical reasons” when they decided to make the draw for this year’s tournament in December 2012, basing the seedings on the world rankings at the time.
People have been questioning the wisdom of that policy ever since, all the more so after England became the first sole hosts to go out at the pool stage.
It is little consolation to hear that organisers since suggesting they may change their approach for the 2019 tournament in Japan.
It meant the teams who eight days ago were ranked two, three and four in the world (Australia, England and Wales), along with ninth-ranked Fiji, would be pooled together with only two able to advance.
In October 2012, a year after reaching the semifinals of the World Cup and seven months after winning a Six Nations grand slam, Wales were ranked fifth.
Five weeks later, after the penultimate loss of an eight-match losing streak, they plummeted to ninth.
After losing three close tests on a June tour of Australia, the damage was done on home soil in the Autumn internationals.
They started with a 26-12 loss to Argentina then went down to Samoa, 26-19. The annual caning by New Zealand followed (33-10) but even that run left the Welsh clinging on in seventh place.
And that should have been it, but for the Welsh Rugby Union deciding to squeeze in a fourth match outside the designated November window to make a little bit of extra cash.
Even then, it was all looking rosy for the Welsh when they led Australia 12-9 going into the final minute only for Beale, who had already kicked three penalties, to dive over for a try in the corner.
The World Cup draw was made two days later and the worst Welsh fears were realised.
They and Australia, of course, have come through the pool and it is the English who ended up suffering the fallout from Welsh avarice, Beale’s talent and World Rugby’s long-term but short-sighted planning.
Source: Otago Daily Times