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Any win over Samoa will all-but secure quarter-final berth for Ireland

But there is still a scenario in which Scotland can storm back and qualify alongside Japan to knock Ireland out at the pool stage.

THERE IS STILL quite a bit of rugby to be played before Rugby World Cup Pool A is settled, but despite an uninspiring win over Russia today, Ireland’s fate remains in their own hands.

pool a

While it has long been suggested that choosing between first and second place in the pool – and a likely quarter-final clash against the Springboks or the All Blacks – is a choose-your-poison call, Saturday’s loss to Japan means Ireland have to guard against the prospect of missing out on the last eight entirely.

Even with Ireland’s form this past week, it is unlikely that will come to pass, but allow us a quick run through a few ifs and buts.

Pool A remaining fixtures:

Japan v Samoa, Saturday 5 October
Scotland v Russia, Wednesday 9 October
Ireland v Samoa, Saturday 12 October
Japan v Scotland, Sunday 13 October

At this juncture it appears as though Ireland must still secure a bonus point win over Samoa to make absolutely sure of progress to the last eight.

To simplify the equation slightly by working backwards: the maximum points tally Ireland can reach is 16. 

Scotland’s maximum is 15 and Japan’s is 19, but they can’t both win that pool-closer in Yokohama. 

We’ll mark out the most likely scenarios for Ireland first: Ireland qualify if…

  • They beat Samoa with a bonus point.
  • They beat Samoa. And Scotland get less than maximum points in their remaining two matches against Russia and Japan.
  • They beat Samoa. And Japan pick up less than six points in matches against Samoa and Scotland.

It also remains possible that Ireland, Japan and Scotland could all end up level on points, thus negating the primary factor used to separate teams, the head-to-head record.

If two teams are locked on the same number of points in a pool, then the result between those sides will be used to rank one above the other (i.e: Japan would rank higher than Ireland due to their win on Saturday).

If three teams are tied, though, it becomes a closed loop and the determining factor goes to points difference.

That would come about if we see maximum points for Japan against Samoa and Scotland against Russia, then a bonus point win for Scotland over the host nation plus a losing or try-scoring bonus point for Japan in the same game.

peter-omahony-celebrates-scoring-their-second-try-with-teammates Numbers game: If Ireland don't secure a bonus point against Samoa, the margin of victory could prove crucial. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

That turn of events would leave the table reading: Ireland (15 points), Japan (15), Scotland (15).

As things stand, with a game extra played against the weakest team in the pool, Ireland have the best points difference (+52) with Japan (+27) next best having also faced Russia.

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Scotland sit on +10 with Russia next up, so there is a chance that Schmidt’s Pool A rivals can make Ireland sweat on the final weekend.

However, as a three-way tie could(*) require a winning margin of seven points for Scotland over Japan, both Townsend and Jamie Joseph’s team would need to rack up a big points haul before going into the final round of games.

If teams end level on points difference as well as points on the table, then the ranking will be determined by try-scoring differential, then points scored, then the highest try count and if all that fails then the higher-ranked teams as of 14 October will move sheepishly into the last eight.

Long story short: there’s a lot of rugby still to be played, but Ireland are in control of their fate.

(*if Japan secure a try-scoring bonus point then they could lose by any margin and the teams would be locked together on 15 points.)

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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