Rugby World Cup Ltd has announced that the IRB World Rankings will be used to seed teams for the 2011 Rugby World Cup pool allocation draw, which will take place in December.
This is the first time that the IRB World Rankings have been used in such a manner and the cut-off date for the Rankings will be December 1, following the last of the November internationals in Europe.
“In an innovative move, the IRB World Rankings will be used to seed the 12 automatic qualifiers from RWC 2007 in France into a draw for the four pools for RWC 2011. The rankings are now very well established and provide us with a credible and succinct way of seeding teams for the Rugby World Cup pool draw,” said RWCL chairman Dr Syd Millar.
“The pool draws for previous tournaments, including RWC 2007 in France, used results from each respective preceding tournament to seed teams for the allocation draw.
“However, the RWCL Board felt that the rankings are a more accurate record of a team’s position at any given time and will provide the best possible chance of evenly matched pools emerging from the draw.
“This was also the view at the IRB Integrated Season Forum in Woking in November where there was a strong common consensus among participants that the rankings should have a greater role in the seeding and pool allocation process for the Rugby World Cup,” added the former Ireland player and manager.
RWC 2011 in New Zealand will comprise 20 teams allocated into four pools – 12 teams that automatically qualified from RWC 2007 in France and eight teams that will come through the RWC 2011 qualifier programme which begins in the Caymans in April.
The 12 automatic qualifiers are the reigning World Cup champions South Africa, runners-up England, losing semi-finalists France and Argentina, losing quarter-finalists Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Scotland, and Italy, Tonga, Wales and Ireland who finished in third place in their respective pools.
Like the last two World Cup tournaments, there will be four pools of five teams. Each team will be banded according to strength to try and ensure evenly matched pools. The teams in each band will be randomly drawn to determine the pools they go into.
The 12 directly qualified teams will be allocated into the top three bands for the random draw using the IRB World Rankings as follows:
Band 1: Top four ranked qualified teams (1 to 4 in IRB World Rankings)
Band 2: Next four ranked qualified teams (5 to 8 in IRB World Rankings)
Band 3: Bottom four ranked qualified teams
As for RWC 2007, the eight qualifier positions will be randomly allocated into the final two bands:
Band 4: Oceania 1, Europe 1, Europe 2, Americas 1
Band 5: Africa 1, Asia 1, Americas 2, Playoff (Europe 3 v Americas 3)
RWCL has also confirmed the knockout structure for the quarter-finals onwards. It follows the same structure as RWC 2003 and RWC 2007. The full structure is as follows:
Quarter-Final 1: Winner Pool B v Runners-up Pool A
Quarter-Final 2: Winner Pool C v Runners-up Pool D
Quarter-Final 3: Winner Pool A v Runners-up Pool B
Quarter-Final 4: Winner Pool D v Runners-up Pool C
Semi-Final 1: Winner QF1 v Winner QF2
Semi-Final 2: Winner QF3 v Winner QF4
Bronze Final: Loser SF1 v Loser SF2
Final: Winner SF1 v Winner SF2
Commenting on the draw and the structure put in place, Millar said: “Ideally we would have liked to have the draw in 2009 but this would not allow enough time to negotiate and confirm venues for the 48 matches and the associated team base camps.
“The organising committee Rugby New Zealand (RNZ) 2011 also needs sufficient time, following the pool draw, to develop the match schedule in association with RWC broadcasters, and there are other important time-dependent tournament planning considerations such as the ticketing programme.”
RNZ 2011 Ltd CEO Martin Snedden said the RWCL Board decision would allow RNZ 2011 to move ahead with its match and team allocation planning for the tournament.
“There is strong interest from regions across New Zealand in hosting matches or teams during Rugby World Cup 2011. The confirmation of the seeding process for the 12 teams which have already qualified allows us to move ahead with the allocation process.
“We expect to be able to confirm the venues for the knockout matches in the third quarter of this year and all of the remaining match venues in the first quarter of 2009,” he said.