Any devout rugby fan who has been keeping up with the sport over the past couple of years will have noticed a shift in the game that has come to a crescendo in this world cup – beards!
As if a 19 stone All Black hurtling down the pitch with the sole purpose of flattening whoever gets in their way wasn’t imposing enough, plenty of rugby players have donned an impressive array of facial hair to make them even more terrifying.
But not all beards are created equal, and some teams haven’t quite caught up with trend. If you look closely, you will see a correlation between the number of beards on a team and their likelihood of winning the tournament.
Don’t believe me? Well, let’s look at the numbers.
Depending on who you ask, Australia are currently the second or third most likely to win the World Cup. Betfair currently has 11/4 odds on Australia winning the tournament. This may be down to the fact that more than half the Australian team is bearded. In fact, 17 out of the 33 players have some form of facial hair.
But what about the favourites to win? The All Blacks. Not that they needed the extra help, but the odds on favourites have an impressive 16 bearded players on their squad. Although this isn’t quite as impressive as the Aussies efforts, but the formidable Charlie Faumuina more than makes up for it.
England aren’t far behind in the league tables, both in terms of points and beards. Despite last weekend’s disappointing result, England are still very much in this world cup. The men in white and are currently looking at 13/2 odd of winning the tournament. Kieran Brookes, James Haskell and Courtney Lawes are just three of the 14 towering English players who have proudly sported face fuzz in this world cup.
So several of the world’s best teams have fallen for beardmania, does that mean that all the poorly performing teams need to do is forgo the razor for the next few weeks?. Currently, Paddypower has given Georgia and Tonga 2000/1 odds of making it to the final. Both teams suffer from a severe lack of facial hair, Georgia only having nine players with facial hair and Tonga only having eight. However, even if these teams do pull the bearded cat out of the bag, it’s unlikely that they will be any challenge to the like of Australia and New Zealand.
Success in top class international rugby may be down to more than just an impressive follicle display, but it seems obvious that the beard effect is one that rugby teams can’t afford to ignore.