It’s November again and for rugby fans, it means the Autumn Internationals are on us again. The nations of Europe welcome teams from all over the world for the next 3 or 4 weeks to test each other and find out where they stand. Ahead of the first round of matches, I have used World Rugby’s Rankings to predict who will win and to set expectations for each nation.
Earlier this year, I made a similar set of predictions for the 2017 6 Nations and correctly called 12 out of 15 games. The prediction model is explained in one of my 6 Nations post but World Rugby’s goal is that rankings can be used as a predictive tool. The idea is to take each team’s current ranking and add 3 points to teams playing at home. Whoever has the higher ranking is then expected to win but clearly the closer the rankings, the closer the game is expected to be.
The table to the right shows the top 20 nations in world rugby as of 9th November 2017. New Zealand are still number 1 with England 3 points behind them. Bear in mind that World Rugby add 3 points to a home team when predicting a match so this indicates that if England were to play New Zealand at Twickenham this month, it would be too close to call. Unfortunately, rugby fans have to wait until November next year to see that match by which time the rankings could have changed.
I was surprised to see Scotland at #6 in the current rankings. I know they had a decent 6 Nations but I hadn’t realised they had progressed in the rankings to this extent. If I were a Scottish fan, I would be setting the team the goal of building on this. The other notable team is Fiji who are currently ahead of Argentina who have slipped back in the rankings this year. Finally, it is worth noting that Wales will play Georgia this month and on current rankings they will provide a sterner test than Italy.
World Rugby update their rankings after every round of matches so whilst I can use these rankings to predict the matches this weekend, I am on shaky grounds to use them to predict the 2nd and 3rd weeks of matches. I have done so in the table below but my main reason for doing this is to set expectations for each nation. Most nations are playing 3 matches with Wales & South Africa playing 4 matches and the tier 2 nations playing 2 or 1 match.
The ranking points in the PTS columns next to each nation and the difference in rankings is represented by the horizontal bars in the middle which point to the stronger team. These teams are then listed in the last column as the predicted winners. So in week 1, England & Scotland are predicted to have the easiest games whilst Wales V Australia is predicted to be the closest game.
Having made predictions for each match (subject to the caveats for weeks 2, 3 & 4), I summarise the expected performance for each nation in the next table. As well as listing number of matches, wins and losses, I have also listed the number of close matches (defined to be matches with a ranking gap of 3 points or less). My experience of predicting the 6 Nations suggests that these are the matches that will upset my predictions. Of the 5 close matches then, 2 were incorrectly predicted whereas among the 10 non-close matches only one was incorrect which happened to be Ireland beating England to deny England the Grand Slam.
Of the 6 Nations and Rugby Championship teams, England, Ireland and New Zealand are expected to win all of their matches with none of them expected to be close. For excitement, one should watch the Wales, South Africa and Australia games and we will find out how close with Wales playing Australia in the 1st round on Saturday.