Rugby World Cup 2019 Network Visualisation

(This is late because I spent most of the build-up to the World Cup on holiday. I would recommend a visit to Andalusia to anyone and everyone.)

For the Rugby World Cup, you’re going to get more images than usual in this kind of post. This is because the governing body, World Rugby, demand that the squads are finalised before the final warm up match (no, I have no idea why). In a sport like rugby, it’s very easy for people to get injured in a match, so there are often changes between the squad being finalised and the start of the tournament.

Below is the original squads, in red and white in honour of Japan.


The labelled version is here:


As you can see, Samoa are the team closest to the centre, with London Irish being the club team closest. Jaguares are the club with the most representatives (26), followed by Welwitschias (20) and Glasgow Warriors (16).

Because of the regional way rugby union works in several countries (New Zealand, Ireland, Australia, Wales) pick all their players from very few teams (4 for Ireland, 5 for New Zealand). Ireland are the team floating on their own. In the men’s football equivalent of this diagram, being so isolated is a predictor of poor performance but I don’t think this will be in the rugby (this was written before Japan Vs Ireland, possibly it is more prophetic than I thought.)

The number of unattached players is higher than football. USA and Canada have the most with 5, but several other teams also have unattached players (Samoa, Fiji, Georgia, Italy and Tonga).

All 20 teams are their own communities.

However, as I said players get injured and several teams had to replace players before the start of the tournament. The diagram on the first day of the World Cup (20th September), looked like this.


The main difference is that Namibia have moved further in because they have a player (Janco Venter) who plays for Jersey Reds, and Lee Roy Atalifo, who was a replacement for Fiji also plays for them.

This means that Fiji are now the team closest to the centre, while London Irish are still the club team closest to the centre. The clubs with the most players hasn’t changed.

Rugby union also does something interesting with regard to replacing injured players. In international football tournaments, teams may only replace injured players until their first game. In the rugby union world cup, teams may replace injured players throughout. I think this is because players are more likely to get injured in rugby and because there are certain positions where you need a specialist player.

These positions tend to be the front row (Hooker and Props). If a team cannot field a recognised hooker and props, scrums become uncontested for safety reasons. Backs are more interchangeable and, theoretically you can play a non-scrum half at Scrum Half, it just might not end well. (I mock with love, and no one can say that Mauro Bergamasco didn’t give it his all, because he is lovely beyond words).

With the changes that have come after the first round and will undoubtedly come after the second round, I will make more diagrams. I am also very tempted to find a way of making an animation of the changes and then do the same for a diagram of all the players who have been named in the squads. For the time being, below are all of the plays that have been named in any of the squads from the naming of the squads to the start of the tournament.


At the 2015 World Cup, Wales and Samoa went through the most players and I suggested that reflected something about the way the two teams played. This time, New Zealand, Canada, Samoa and Fiji have already had to add players, 1 each.

More soon.

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