Pool A permutations: Ireland’s path to quarter-finals far from clear
Pool A is set to go right down to the wire with three teams potentially finishing on 15 points
Scotland players celebrate with John Barclay after their 2019 Rugby World Cup win over Russia. Photo: Mark R. Cristino/EPA
Following Scotland’s 61-0 bonus point win over Russia on Wednesday, the Pool A qualification picture has become somewhat clearer. But that’s not to say it doesn’t remain extremely complicated!
As things stand, Ireland, Japan and Scotland can all still make it to the quarter-finals, in either first or second place, but the tournament hosts currently occupy the driving seat after three wins from three.
Japan have 14 points, Ireland are second on 11 while Scotland are in third on 10 points. Ireland meet Samoa on Saturday before Japan take on Scotland (weather-permitting) on Sunday.
If Ireland win with a bonus point
A bonus-point win for Ireland would guarantee them a place in the last eight, regardless of how Sunday’s match goes.
If Ireland win without a bonus point
A failure to get all five points leaves Ireland’s fate in the lap of the gods. Should they only reach 15 points, then it depends on how Japan get on against Scotland.
A win for Japan would see them top the group, with Ireland second. However, should Scotland win, it has the potential to get very messy indeed.
A win for Scotland with a bonus point would see Ireland top the group with Scotland in second. However, if Japan manage to pick up a losing bonus point, then all three teams finish on 15 points. In that scenario, Scotland would almost certainly have the best points difference (the Scots currently are +71, with Ireland on +52 and Japan on +46) and go through as pool winners.
But as points difference is only used to determine top spot when three teams are level, Japan would take second place as head-to-head is used to decide second and third.
Still with us? Good. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Japan could pick up two losing bonus points (one losing bonus, one for four tries), finishing on 16 points, leaving Ireland and Scotland tied for second on 15 points. In that case, Ireland would progress on the head-to-head record against Scotland.
If Ireland lose
To complicate matters even more, Ireland could also lose to Samoa and still qualify as runners-up – providing Japan beat Scotland, and the Scots don’t pick up two bonus points.
A quick, simplified recap – if Ireland win with a bonus point we can put the calculators away, but if all three teams finish on 15 points, Scotland will almost certainly top the group with Ireland eliminated.