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The 2023 Rugby World Cup in France is now well underway, with the curtain-raiser between hosts, France and New Zealand setting the tournament ablaze and lighting the fire under what promises to be an historic tournament.
After one round of pool games complete, many teams are one step closer to a place in the knockout rounds, while many have absorbed major set backs to their aspirations. With just three pool games left for each team, every point is vital as permutations and head-to-heads come into play in the final round.
However, those new to the oval-game, possibly traditionally football fans, may have noticed that rugby has a slightly unusual points-scoring system in pool stage formats, one far more complicated than the three-points for a win and one-point for a draw format seen in football. So what is it? How does it work and how does it affect group-stage formats?
The ‘Bonus Point’ in rugby – what is it?
In rugby, four points are awarded for a win and zero points for a loss, meaning the rewards for a narrow victory are far, far larger, however, there is a procedure to help bridge the gap.
If a team scores four or more tries in a game they are awarded a ‘bonus point’, meaning that a team who wins a match and scores four or more tries are awarded five league/pool-stage points. This rewards adventurous and attacking styles of play and is known as a ‘try bonus point’.
Furthermore, there is another bonus point up for grabs, known as the ‘losing bonus point’. Because an 80-0 loss is not the same as a 35-34 loss and shouldn’t be reflected the same in pool-stage points, if a team loses by seven points or less, they are awarded a ‘losing bonus point’, so they don’t go home empty handed.
It is possible to be awarded a try bonus point and a losing bonus point meaning a team who scores four or more tries and loses by seven or less points will be awarded two league/pool-stage points.
Are you following? Here are some examples from this past weekend to help you understand.
England 27-10 Argentina: Four and zero pool-stage points
England beat Argentina by a good margin, 17 points, however, all of their points came from the boot of George Ford and they did not score a single try.
England would have had to score four more tries, and Argentina three more as they scored on try, to be awarded an extra point, while Argentina needed to score ten more points to be awarded a losing bonus point, therefore, both teams get the bog-standard points award, four and zero.
Ireland 82-8 Romania: Five and zero pool-stage points
This game was extremely one-sided with Ireland scoring a whopping twelve tries. Ireland scored their fourth of these tries very early on in the first-half, meaning that, unlike England, they earned a try bonus point.
On the other hand Romania scored just one try, three short of a try bonus point and a huge 67-points short of earning a losing bonus point.
Wales 32-26 Fiji: Five and two pool-stage points
This is where it gets complicated, in a fire-cracker of a game in Bordeaux both teams scored four tries each and therefore both earned a try bonus point.
When Semi Radradra had the ball bounce into his chest, 20-metres from the Wales line in the dying seconds of the game, he had a chance to win the match and win Fiji all five available pool-stage points. However, Radradra dropped the ball and Wales won the game, meaning Wales took home five pool-stage points and Fiji took home two, one for a try bonus and one losing bonus point for finishing within seven points.
What about a draw?
At the risk of making this even more complicated, there is one more caveat to address. In rugby a draw is worth two league/pool-stage points, so in a regular draw each team is awarded two points.
However, while you can’t earn a losing bonus point in a draw, you can earn a try bonus point, meaning that a high-scoring draw is worth almost as much as a low-scoring win, such as in England’s case.
For example, if two teams draw 20-20 but one team scores all their points through kicks while the other team scores four tries, the former team will be awarded two league/pool-stage points while the latter will be awarded three.
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