RANKINGS: Tops and flops

Tue, 06 Dec 2016 07:16
Large warren whiteley dejected 800

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Springboks were the biggest losers of the teams in the top 10 World Rankings after a busy month of internationals.

With the 2019 World Cup draw happening in May 2017, teams were jockeying for positions ahead of intensified over the November period.

Ireland and Scotland gained ground from a rankings perspective.

If the pools were drawn now, New Zealand (currently ranked one), England (two), Australia (three) and Ireland (four) would be kept apart as they are ranked as the top four seeds among the 12 direct qualifiers from the 2015 World Cup.

With four pools of five teams, each top seed is drawn with a side ranked fifth to eighth and then one from ninth to 12th. The remaining eight teams are drawn from two further bands.

So, as things stand, it is possible that reigning world champions New Zealand, who celebrated their seven-year anniversary as the world's top ranked team during November, could be drawn alongside two of last year's World Cup semi-finalists - South Africa and Argentina - in a pool every bit as tasty as the one that confronted England when paired with Australia, Wales, Fiji and Uruguay in Pool A in 2015.

Here's how the various teams shaped up over the November window from a rankings perspective:
(Pre-November rankings in brackets)

1 New Zealand (1)  - down 1.79 points

The All Blacks rallied well after their record 18-match winning run came to an end with defeat against Ireland (29-40) in Chicago, beating Italy (68-10), Ireland (21-9) and France (24-19). Nevertheless, over the course of the month their lead at the top of the rankings was cut from 7.08 points to 4.32.

2 England (2) - up 0.97 points

There was no stopping Eddie Jones' men as wins over South Africa (37-21), Fiji (58-15), Argentina (27-14) and Australia (37-21) took them past the 90-point mark in the rankings and equalled their best-ever run of 14 straight victories.

3 Australia (3) - up 1.02 points

The Wallabies marginally improved their rating points despite losing two of their five internationals in Europe. After opening with an emphatic win over Wales (32-8), Michael Cheika's men repeated their one-point win over Scotland in the 2015 World Cup quarterfinal with a 23-22 victory and then edged France 25-23. But any hopes of a Grand Slam were dashed when they lost to Ireland (24-27), before a long season ended with a 21-37 defeat at Twickenham.

4 Ireland (6) - up 2.95 points

The biggest mover in terms of points and positions gained. A first-ever victory over the All Blacks set the tone for a wonderful campaign which also yielded wins against Canada (52-21) and Australia (27-24), the latter result a fine way for captain Rory Best to mark his 100th cap. The only blot on their copybook was the 9-21 loss to the All Blacks in Dublin.

5 Wales (5) - up 0.06 points

Wales gained six hundredths of a point over the course of a campaign that produced three wins out of four but did little to silence the critics. Rob Howley's men responded to the heavy defeat to Australia with hard-fought wins over Argentina (24-20) and Japan (33-30) before seeing off South Africa for only the third time in their history, 27-13.

6 South Africa (4) - down 3.06 points

A difficult campaign that saw South Africa suffer three straight losses after kicking off their tour with an entertaining 31-31 draw against the Barbarians at Twickenham. Defeats to England (21-37) and Wales (13-27) came either side of a first-ever loss to Italy (18-20) and resulted in the Springboks dropping to sixth to equal their lowest position since the rankings were introduced in October 2003.

7 Scotland (8) - up 0.23 points

The Scots climbed up to seventh, their highest position for five years, after an encouraging November campaign that brought wins over Argentina (19-16) and Georgia (43-16) following the heartache of the near-miss against Australia.

8 France (7) - down 0.62 points

Even though Les Bleus lost a bit of ground in the rankings, they will take heart from their performances in November. A clinical display of finishing saw them put 50 points on Samoa before the southern hemisphere's top two, Australia (23-25) and New Zealand (19-24), were pushed to the limit.

9 Argentina (9) - down 0.40 points

The travel-weary Los Pumas hung onto ninth spot in the rankings despite losing four-tenths of a point across the month. A crushing 54-20 win against a inexperienced Japan side was followed by tight defeats to Wales (20-24) and Scotland (16-19) before their tour came to an end with a 14-27 loss to England.

10 Fiji (10th) - up 1.03 points

The reigning World Pacific Nations Cup champions made up for heavy defeats to the Barbarians (7-40) and England (15-58) to win the one that really mattered, against Japan, where defeat to the Brave Blossoms in the French town of Vannes would have cost them their place in the world's top 10. Two tries from Levani Botia helped them secure a 38-25 victory.