Tag: England

My 2015 Rugby World Cup predictions

With the 2015 Rugby World Cup (RWC), the premier international tournament in the sport of rugby union, scheduled for next month, I’m going to make predictions for every game of the entire tournament. Since this is a two-stage tournament, with a four-pool, 20-team round robin segment called the pool stage, followed by an eight-team elimination segment called the knockout stage, with a somewhat complex point system being used to determine standings for the pool stage, predicting the entire tournament correctly is extremely difficult, if not virtually impossible.

In the RWC, wins in the pool stage are worth four points, draws are worth two points (if two teams are tied after regulation in the pool stage, the game is declared a draw), and losses are worth zero points. Additionally, one bonus point is awarded for scoring four or more tries (in rugby, a try is scored by grounding the ball behind the opposing team’s goal line) in a game, and one bonus point is awarded for losing by seven points or fewer. I’ve listed games according to pool and in the order within the pool that they are scheduled to be played. I’m using the (winning team) (winning score)-(losing score) (losing team) format to display projections, with teams scoring bonus points (BP) being noted in parenthesis. For standings, if at least one game in a particular pool ends in a draw, I’ll use the win-draw-loss format for team records, and, if no games in a particular pool end in a draw, I’ll use the win-loss format for team records. Points are displayed as the following mathematical formula: (win and draw points)+(bonus points)=(total points)

Here are my predictions for the pool stage of the 2015 RWC:

POOL A (Australia, England, Wales, Fiji, Uruguay)

England 21-17 Fiji (Fiji BP)
Wales 32-6 Uruguay (Wales BP)
Australia 25-19 Fiji (Fiji BP)
England 17-17 Wales
Australia 49-9 Uruguay (Australia BP)
Fiji 20-19 Wales (Wales BP)
Australia 34-30 England (Australia and England BP)
Fiji 31-11 Uruguay (Fiji BP)
Australia 25-13 Wales (Australia BP)
England 71-3 Uruguay (England BP)

Australia – 4-0-0 – 16+3=19
England – 3-1-0 – 14+1=15
Fiji – 2-0-2 – 8+3=11
Wales – 1-1-2 – 6+2=8
Uruguay – 0-0-4 – 0+0=0

POOL B (Japan, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, United States)

Japan 22-21 South Africa (South Africa BP)
Samoa 29-22 United States (Samoa and United States BP)
Scotland 11-10 Japan (Japan BP)
South Africa 57-24 Samoa (South Africa BP)
United States 22-20 Scotland (Scotland BP)
Samoa 31-12 Japan (Samoa BP)
South Africa 37-20 Scotland (South Africa BP)
South Africa 30-24 United States (South Africa and United States BP)
Samoa 27-15 Scotland (Samoa BP)
United States 22-21 Japan (Japan BP)

South Africa – 3-1 – 12+4=16
Samoa – 3-1 – 12+3=15
United States – 2-2 – 8+2=10
Japan – 1-3 – 4+2=6
Scotland – 1-3 – 4+1=5

POOL C (Argentina, Georgia Republic, Namibia, New Zealand, Tonga)

Tonga 40-15 Georgia Republic (Tonga BP)
New Zealand 19-18 Argentina (Argentina BP)
New Zealand 102-6 Namibia (New Zealand BP)
Argentina 38-10 Georgia Republic (Argentina BP)
Tonga 35-14 Namibia (Tonga BP)
New Zealand 49-18 Georgia Republic (New Zealand BP)
Tonga 22-9 Argentina
Namibia 24-19 Georgia Republic (Namibia and Georgia Republic BP)
New Zealand 32-20 Tonga (New Zealand BP)
Argentina 49-3 Namibia (Argentina BP)

New Zealand – 4-0 – 16+3=19
Tonga – 3-1 – 12+2=14
Argentina – 2-2 – 8+3=11
Namibia – 1-3 – 4+1=5
Georgia Republic – 0-4 – 0+1=1

POOL D (Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Romania)

Ireland 36-11 Canada (Ireland BP)
France 40-36 Italy (France BP, Italy 2 BPs)
France 39-12 Romania (France BP)
Italy 29-16 Canada
Ireland 41-3 Romania (Ireland BP)
France 41-20 Canada (France BP)
Italy 33-29 Ireland (Italy BP, Ireland 2 BPs)
Canada 44-30 Romania (Canada and Romania BP)
Italy 55-12 Romania (Italy BP)
France 19-19 Ireland

France – 3-1-0 – 14+3=17
Italy – 3-0-1 – 12+4=16
Ireland – 2-1-1 – 10+4=14
Canada – 1-0-3 – 4+1=5
Romania – 0-0-4 – 0+1=1

In rugby union, tries are worth five points in a game, conversions after tries are worth two points in a game, and goals (which can be scored on either penalty kicks or drop kicks) are worth three points in a game. If I’ve predicted a team to win a game and earn a bonus point in the standings, lose a game by more than seven points and earn a bonus point in the standings, or lose a game and earn two bonus points in the standings, then I’m predicting that the team will score at least four tries in the game in question.

Since the top two in each pool advance to the knockout stage of the RWC, that means that I predict that Australia, England, South Africa, Samoa, New Zealand, Argentina, France, and Italy will advance to the knockout stage. In addition, I’m also predicting that, in addition to the eight teams that I’ve predicted to advance to the knockout phase, Fiji, the United States, Tonga, and Ireland will qualify for the 2019 RWC based on their performance in the 2015 RWC.

The quarterfinal pairings for the knockout stage are 1B (first-place from Group B) vs. 2A (second-place from Group A), 1C vs. 2D, 1D vs. 2C, and 1A vs. 2B, with the winners of the first two quarterfinal pairings facing each other in the first semifinal, and the winners of the last two quarterfinal pairings facing each other in the second semifinal. The winners of the semifinal matches advance to the final to play for the Webb Ellis Cup that is presented to the winner of the RWC, whereas the losers of the semi-final matches advance to the bronze final to play for third-place.

Should any knockout stage game end in a tie after regulation, two ten-minute extra time periods would be played, with both periods being played in their entirety regardless of whether or not scoring occurs and/or one team is ahead after the first extra time period. Should extra time end in a tie, a ten-minute sudden death extra time period, in which the first team to score wins, would be played. Should neither team score in the sudden death extra time period, a kicking competition, in which both teams will get five place-kicks at goal, would be played, and whoever kicks the most goals in the kicking competition wins. Should the kicking competition end in a tie after each team has taken five kicks, then a sudden death kicking competition, in which the kicking competition is continued until one team kicks a goal and the other team misses, would be played.

QUARTERFINALS

England 25-22 South Africa (Sudden Death Extra Time)
New Zealand 41-19 Italy
France 45-18 Tonga
Australia 36-15 Samoa

SEMIFINALS

England 26-23 New Zealand
Australia 24-21 France

BRONZE FINAL

New Zealand 33-27 France

FINAL

England 19-19 Australia (England wins in Sudden Death Kicking Competition 12-11)

I’m predicting that England, the primary host country of the tournament (Wales will host several games, although most of the games will be held in England), will win the 2015 Rugby World Cup and claim the Webb Ellis Cup.

My two pence about the British elections

In the 2015 United Kingdom elections for seats in the 650-member British House of Commons, which holds nearly all of the governing power at the national level in the UK, were held yesterday. Here’s my two pence (in the UK, the British pound, the national currency, is divided into 100 pence) about what transpired last night across the pond from my home country of the United States.

First-past-the-post elections are ridiculously unfair

If there was ever a textbook example of how first-past-the-post elections can result in wildly disproportional results, the 2015 British elections would be it. The Conservatives, led by right-wing Prime Minister David Cameron, won an outright majority of seats in Parliament with only about 37% of the national popular vote. Another party that benefited greatly from first-past-the-post is the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), a left-wing Scottish separatist party. Despite winning less than 5% of the national popular vote, the SNP won all but three of Scotland’s 59 seats in Parliament, or 56 seats, 8.6% of all seats, entirely because they only contested the Scottish seats for obvious reasons. Even though the left-leaning Labour, led by Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband going into last night’s election, collapsed in this election for reasons I’ll explain below, Labour won 232 seats, or not quite 36% of the seats in Parliament, with only slightly over 30% of the national popular vote, thus not collapsing quite as much as their popular vote total would suggest. Three parties that were screwed over by the first-past-the-post system were the far-right UK Independence Party (UKIP), the left-wing Green Party of England and Wales (Greens), and the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems), who partnered with the Tories in the previous governing coalition. The UKIP received 12.6% of the national popular vote, the Greens received 3.8% of the total vote, and the Lib Dems received 7.9% of the total vote. Despite that, the UKIP and Greens won a single seat each, and the Lib Dems won eight seats, or 1.2% of all seats. To give you a general idea of how disproportional this is, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), a right-wing unionist party in Northern Ireland that contested 16 of the 18 Northern Irish seats, will have the same number of MPs as the Lib Dems despite the Lib Dems getting over 2.2 million votes more than the DUP, and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), a party which contested 15 Northern Irish seats and is similar to, and in an electoral pact with, the DUP, will have the same number of seats as the UKIP and the Greens combined, despite the fact that the UKIP and the Greens combined received over 16% of the total vote and the UUP received less than 0.5% of the total vote.

This is mostly due to three factors: First, in many constituencies, no candidate received a majority of the vote. When that happens in a British parliamentary constituency, the candidate with a plurality of votes is elected to the Commons. Second, the UKIP and the Greens received a significant minority of the popular vote nationwide, but, because their votes were largely spread out over the constituencies they contested, they only won a single seat each because they only got the most votes in a single constituency. Third, the SNP, the Northern Irish parties, and the left-wing Welsh separatist party Plaid Cymru only contested seats in one of the four British constituent countries and received a significant share of the vote in the constituent country they contested seats in.

There are several ways that Britain can make its electoral system more representative of the British populace. One idea would be to maintain first-past-the-post as a core system of election, but, if the first-past-the-post result is not proportional, a variable amount of leveling seats would be added to Parliament, so that parties end up having a number of seats that are proportional to their national popular vote share. How this system would work is, if the first-past the post result for 650 seats is not proportional, a calculation for a 651-seat House of Commons, with all seats not won by an independent candidate being allocated to each political party in proportion to their national vote share, is conducted. Should the 651-seat Commons calculation yield a result in which one or more parties end up with fewer seats than the number of seats they won under first-past-the-post, similar calculations are done for a 652-seat Commons, a 653-seat Commons, a 654-seat Commons, and so on, until each political party has at least as many seats as they won by first-past-the-post, and each political party has a number of seats that is proportional to their national vote share. Another idea would be to implement instant-runoff voting, in which voters are allowed to give multiple preferences for who they want to represent them in the Commons, but maintain constituencies electing a single member to Parliament. Yet another idea would be to implement single non-transferable vote, where voters would have only a single vote as they currently do, but Members of Parliament (MPs) would be elected from multi-member constituencies, with the top n candidates, in which n is the number of seats to be filled in each constituency, winning seats in the Commons. Other ideas involving multi-member constituencies include multi-member instant-runoff voting (basically a combination of instant-runoff voting and multi-member constituencies), single-transferable vote (a preferential system that is used in some multi-member constituency systems around the world), and the party-list system (where voters are given a single vote in a multi-member constituency, and seats are allocated to political parties in proportion to the number of votes each party receives in a constituency).

One thing I do like about Britain’s parliamentary elections is that each constituency reports all of its votes at once, and the candidates in each constituency are standing on the same stage as the results are announced. This is vastly different than how American and Canadian election results are announced, in which each polling place usually reports results individually, with media outlets making projections in election night coverage based on the polling place results and final results being officially reported weeks, if not months, after the date of the election, with candidates not being present for the announcement of official results.

Labour’s anti-Scotland rhetoric cost them any chance of forming a government

During the campaign, Labour, which will, once again, be the main opposition party in the Commons, spent most of their campaign railing against Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP, and Scotland as a whole. This cost Labour a large number of constituencies in Scotland that, prior to yesterday’s elections, were longtime Labour strongholds, and probably helped to give the Greens gain a sizable share of the popular vote that may have helped the Tories win some seats in England. Had Labour ran on increased devolution to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, they might have held on to a lot of their seats in Scotland and may have prevented the Tories from getting a majority by themselves. Instead, the Tories have an outright majority in the Commons, and Nicola Sturegon is effectively the voice of the Scottish people in Parliament.

For Labour to go back to Tony Blair-type centrist leadership would likely put Labour in an even worse position politically than they currently are for three reasons: One, they’d gain virtually nothing in Scotland, unless the SNP alienates some voters who supported them last night. Two, they’d give the Greens a even larger base of support among current left-wing Labour supporters who would be alienated by another Blair-type leader at the helm of Labour. Three, they wouldn’t gain enough from the Tories, who benefit heavily due to right-wing media bias from both the public media and the corporate media in the UK, the SNP, and possibly other parties to make up for any losses to the Greens and possibly other parties.

For Labour to at least have a chance at getting back in power, they would need to win back their former Scottish strongholds that went SNP last night by supporting increased devolution to Scotland, and they would need to win over voters they lost to the Greens by adopting and supporting a progressive, isolationist platform.

ENDORSEMENT: YES for Scottish independence

I’m an American who lives in a small town in the east central part of the U.S. state of Illinois, so I have no vested interest whatsoever in the politics of the United Kingdom, but I’ve been inspired by the social media-driven Yes campaign for Scottish independence, and my endorsement of Scottish independence is more of a way of expressing my admiration of Scottish independence supporters than anything else.

In order to circumvent the British press, the Yes campaign in Scotland has developed an extensive social media network, and I’ve seen it in action. Recently, rock musician Sir Bob Geldof, who was born in the Republic of Ireland (which fought a war against the UK for independence and won), gave a speech opposing Scottish independence from London, which is the single worst place one could pick to give a speech opposing Scottish independence. Because of the Twitter presence of Scottish independence supporters, several topics related to Geldof’s speech, such as “Bob Geldof” and “Trafalgar Square”, are trending on Twitter as I type this blog post. The pro-Scottish independence campaign’s network of supporters on social media reminds me a lot of the social media presence that progressive activists in the U.S. state of Wisconsin built up during the 2011 protests against the busting of labor unions there.

Besides, what does Scotland get with its 307-year-old union with England and Wales? Nothing but a ton of bloviating Westminster politicians and the British press fawning over the Duchess of Cambridge at every opportunity. Worst of all, the No campaign against Scottish independence has resorted to the kind of right-wing fearmongering that is normally seen from Republican politicians here in the United States.

I encourage Scottish voters to vote Yes on the Scottish independence referendum on Thursday.