England will take on South Africa in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final this weekend and I am predicting a win for England by 1 to 6 points. In other words, it will be close and exciting!
As of today, World’s Rugby Rankings for the 20 teams taking part in the 2019 World Cup are as listed in order here. Since Japan is the host nation, 3 points have been added to their ranking points. It should be noted that Namibia are in fact in 23rd place in the full rankings but 3 teams ahead of them (Spain, Romania & Portugal) failed to qualify.
The table also shows the change in ranking points over the whole World Cup for each team and the extent to which each team has outperformed their expected performance using my EXPWIN model which has been the basis of my forecasting. You can find out more about EXPWIN (& HIGHRANK) by reading my first post and learn more about the outperformance concept by reading another post I wrote at the start of the knockout stage.
Ahead of making my forecast for the final, I looked in detail at how well my two models EXPWIN & HIGHRANK performed and you can read my conclusions here.
England set for Glory?
Here is how the quarter-finals and semi-finals worked out along with my prediction for the final.
England are 1.6 ranking points ahead of South Africa which makes for a very close match. EXPWIN predicts England to win by 1 point with only a 53% chance of winning. Both England & South Africa have outperformed EXPWIN to the same extent so the expected margin of victory doesn’t change. In other words it’s a toss up.
The good news for England fans is my model evaluation showed that the stronger teams have been underestimated by between 0 & 10 points with an average of 5 points. On that basis, my prediction is then revised to an England win by 6 points and a 2/3 chance of winning. Looking at odds offered by bookies as of today, I am seeing the most common odds are 9/4 on for England and 7/4 for South Africa which is basically the same as my revised odds.
What does History say?
Using history as a baseline for a forecast is a perfectly valid method. You can see an example of this in my post about the odds of President Trump being reelected in 2020. When it comes to one-off matches like a World Cup Final, it’s probably less useful but it can serve as a good sense check of any forecast especially if one side is apparently overwhelming favourites.
Here is what history has to say about Rugby World Cup finals. I start by listing the finals in chronological order.
- 1987: New Zealand 29-9 France
- 1991: Australia 12-6 England
- 1995: South Africa 15-12 New Zealand
- 1999: Australia 35-12 France
- 2003: England 20-17 Australia
- 2007: South Africa 15-6 England
- 2011: New Zealand 8-7 France
- 2015: New Zealand 34-17 Australia
The omens I see from this are:
- South Africa get to a final every 12 years and have won it every time so far
- South Africa will score 15 points.
- South Africa now join 4 other nations in taking part in their 3rd final. The other 4 have all lost at least one final out of 3.
- England lose a final and then win a final 12 years later.
- When England lose, they only score 6 points.
- France are like South Africa in playing a final every 12 years so they will be finalists in 2023!
Make of all that what you will.
But the biggest and most pertinent historical fact is that all 8 winners so far went through the tournament unbeaten. In 5 finals (’87, ’95, ’99, ’03, ’15) both finalists were unbeaten up to that point so that outcome was guaranteed but in 3 finals (’91, ’07, ’11), one finalist had lost a pool game and went onto lose the final though not by much it must be said.