October 7th, 2011
06:19 PM ET

Who will come out on top in rugby's north-south face off?

Ireland's victory over Australia in the pool stage has caused a north-south divide in the last eight of the World Cup.
Ireland's victory over Australia in the pool stage has caused a north-south divide in the last eight of the World Cup.

The 2011 Rugby World Cup has turned into a battle between the northern and the southern hemisphere. Rankings and continental pride is at stake and the pressure is very much on England, France, Wales and Ireland to prove they are a match for the best that New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina have to offer.

Ireland’s shock win over Australia in the pool stage has left the draw split down geographical lines; nations north of the equator in one half, and countries south of it in the other.

It means we won’t get to see north versus south until the final itself on Sunday October 23rd, and if England stumble along the way either Wales, Ireland or France will get the chance to become only the second European nation to be crowned world champions.

Interestingly, for all the improvements made by the smaller rugby nations at this World Cup there are no shock quarterfinalists. Argentina are the only side to get this far having been outside the top eight in the world rankings at the start of the tournament - and their qualification ahead of Scotland didn’t surprise many.

The way the draw has panned out, supporters in New Zealand and the millions watching across the globe can sit back and compare and contrast the four northern hemisphere countries against the rest.

On one hand, we have two historic Celtic nations – Ireland and Wales – doing battle on the same day as cross-Channel rivals England and France. On the other, a titanic clash between defending champions South Africa and the only other team to win the World Cup twice, Australia, while hosts New Zealand take on the 3rd placed team from 2007, Argentina.

There is still a strong sense among southern hemisphere rugby fans that their top sides are better and England’s 2003 triumph was a blip, fast disappearing in the rear view mirror as the mighty Wallabies, Springboks and All Blacks motor towards future World Cup success.

For those of us who want rugby’s world champions to come from as diverse a pool as possible, Wales, Ireland, England and France can’t just aim to win their matches. One of them must storm to victory; thrill us with power, pace and guile; allow the undoubted talent of their individuals to shine while still operating effectively as a team unit.

The big three of Australia, South Africa and New Zealand are usually always good at this.

Yes, each nation will only be thinking of itself right now but we’ve seen in golf’s continental team contests – the Ryder, President’s, Solheim and Walker Cups – that playing for a region can matter just as much as playing for your country.

Now is the time for northern hemisphere rugby to stamp its mark on the World Cup and to ruck and maul the initiative away from the game’s traditional powerhouses.

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Filed under:  Rugby
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Ben

    Not gunna happen. The winner of New Zealand and South Africa/Australia will run away with it.

    October 7, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Reply
  2. Andy M

    Go Ireland.

    October 7, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Reply
  3. Van Winkle

    Viva South Africaaaaaaa!

    October 7, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Reply
  4. Cheryl - Cape Verde

    I for one will be watching Wales play Ireland at 4a.m. Cape Verde time. Up until this stage I have been cheering other northern hemisphere teams, but tomorrow may thebest team win.....come on Wales.......... and if Wales do get through, maybe we'll get some coverage on CNN?

    October 7, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Reply
  5. Brian O Neill

    Come on Ireland, lets send Wales home!

    October 7, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Reply
  6. anthony

    Northern Hemisphere? Not likely mate. One of the Tri (try)- nations will undoubtedly hoist the Webb Ellis Cup again this go round.

    October 8, 2011 at 2:36 am | Reply
  7. Nancy Forbriger

    all well and good, but how does a scrum work?

    October 8, 2011 at 2:39 am | Reply
  8. Dennis

    I strongly feel that the winner of the SA-Aus match would eventually win the WC.

    October 8, 2011 at 5:11 am | Reply
  9. redphi

    "Now is the time for northern hemisphere rugby to stamp its mark on the World Cup and to ruck and maul the initiative away from the game’s traditional powerhouses." u wish,it's stays in the south......Bokke land

    October 8, 2011 at 7:40 am | Reply
  10. Jez

    Just to point out, England won the WC in 2003 & NZ have never won it. So it's just a little short-sighted to pitch Australia, NZ & S.Africa as the rugby power-houses and to cast aside the northern hemisphere so readily.

    Northern Hemisphere teams play the Southern teams frequently, and frequently beat them. Unlike most US sports, rugby is played on a global scale.

    Shame this is such a badly written article, it tells the US reader very little about rugby, it's global status or the World Cup itself.

    October 8, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Reply
  11. Sanet Halck

    I think it is a shame that one of the largest and genuine world tournaments does not get the coverage from the various networks in the USA it deserves. South Africa being the defending champions have not had one screening on any of the channels' limited coverage. When will we actually see the campions in action?

    October 8, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Reply
  12. Sachiko

    It's a great configuration that king of northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere finally cross the line at the end of tourney, showing what world cup is. Though having full respect to Tri nations, it would be nice if power dominance in rugby will change more diverse, as tennis & golf became more global than decades ago. Personally I'm impressed with Wales great challenge to defending champion South Africa in pool match, I hope Wales will avenge bitter narrow defeat to reach pinnacle Webb Ellis.

    October 8, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Reply
  13. Nomsa Banda

    for the third time in a row South Africa makes history again go Bokkkkkkke, *i see the headlines after the world-cup finals* we taking it.

    October 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Reply
  14. Nomsa Banda

    go Bokke, mzansi (the south) is taking it, good luck boys

    October 9, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  15. Milan

    Springboks, you are the best! And will always be the best! Go South Africa!

    October 9, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Reply
  16. Will

    Jez, New Zealand won the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 and are consistently ranked 1st in the IRB Rankings. They have a winning record against every single team in Rugby and have only ever been beaten by five nations. Wales haven't beaten them in nearly 60 years and England last beat them in 2003. I think one can safely say that they are a powerhouse.

    October 10, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Reply
  17. Russ Young

    For your information NZ won the World Cup in 1987 and England are the only Northern Hemisphere to win the World Cup in 2003. Personally I havent seen any team that has really stood out. The All Blacks having been good in some parts of there games but not been totally dominant. Wales played a blinder against Ireland and France finally woke up against England whose off field antics have been more like Soccer (Football in Europe) players than Rugby Players. New Zealand struggled against Argentina and Australia scaped through against South Africa. In my opinion Wales will beat France but it will be close and NZ will beat Australia just. With New Zealand going on to win the Rugby World Cup and putting to bed 24 years of hurt as they do.

    October 11, 2011 at 12:13 am | Reply

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