Well, the World Cup squads are now arriving in New Zealand and a look at their make-up throws up some interesting statistics. I have looked at where they were born and where they currently play. The birth data is simply based on the country of birth, irrespective of how long the player lived there, or the circumstances involved. The information on current playing locations is as correct as I can make it from the data available. It is based to the extent possible on the latest playing location before the World Cup, and does not include where the player might be going afterwards. It’s not 100% correct but I hope it gets pretty close.
Where do they come from?
Of the 600 players, 66 or 11%, were born in New Zealand, with South Africa next on 40, Australia 36 and Argentina 35. Outside the competing nations, the most frequent birthplace was American Samoa, with 6, which probably makes it the biggest per capita contributor to World Cup squads. Australians were the most peripatetic, playing in 11 countries, closely followed by New Zealanders in 10, then South Africans in 7.
The countries fielding the widest range of birthplaces were England with 9 players not born there, including 2 New Zealanders, and others born in Australia, Jersey, Kenya, Samoa, Trinidad and the United States, while the United States pulls in 12 players born elsewhere, with 5 from American Samoa, 2 from Australia, and one each from Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Tonga and Zimbabwe.
In the Samoan team, more players were born in New Zealand (17) than in Samoa (13), with high proportions of New Zealanders in the teams from Tonga (8) and Japan (6). At the other end of the scale, the teams from Argentina, Georgia and Romania were 100% locally born. And just for the record, the New Zealand squad has 4 players not born in New Zealand – 2 born in Samoa, 1 in American Samoa, and 1 in Australia.
Where do they play?
Turning to where the World Cup players currently ply their trade, nearly a quarter of all the players, at 23%, play in various competitions in France. Main foreign contributors there are Georgia, with 23 of its squad in France, followed by Argentina (20), Fiji, Romania, Tonga and Fiji (9 each), Italy (7), and the United States (6). The next largest destination for players is England on 13%, then New Zealand on 9%, with Australia, Japan, South Africa and Wales on 6%.
Only Australia, France and New Zealand have squads playing only in their own country. At the other extreme, the Pacific countries have very few playing at home, with Samoa and Tonga on 3% and Fiji on 23%, while Georgia is also on 23%.
The striking figure for front rows is that 59% of all front row players (props and hookers) currently play in France (35%) or England (24%), with 16% in New Zealand and 11% in South Africa. However, most front row forwards were born in New Zealand (15 or 10%), with Australia next at 9 (6%).
The other position that stands out is first five-eighth or flyhalf. Of the 41 players in this position in the 20 squads, 8 (21%) were born in New Zealand and 4 (11%) in Argentina, but 24% are playing in France and 12% in England.