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Is 2014 a World Cup form guide?

The world rankings is a system that causes both excitement and heated debate. However, it is not often seen as an accurate yard-stick for what could happen at the World Cup.

In fact, most World Cup winners had a less than impressive run the year before they won the Webb Ellis Cup.

It is a head-scratcher that is both laughed off and held up as evidence that the world rankings are no World Cup barometer.

Only two teams – New Zealand in 2011 and England in 2003 – won the World Cup a year after topping the rankings.

In fact the top-ranked team in 2006, New Zealand, did not make it to the semifinals in 2007.

South Africa won the 2007 World Cup after finishing the previous year in fourth place on the rankings, with a paltry five wins from 12 matches – a less than 50 percent success rate. That is similar to their 1995 World Cup win – when they played nine matches in 1994, won just five (55.6 percent success rate) and finished the year fourth.

In all other instances the team ranked second the year before won the World Cup.

Is 2014 a World Cup form guide?This can all be put down to the bounce of the oval-shaped ball, the capricious and skittish nature of match officials and some selection shockers.

New Zealand will point to Wayne Barnes' bobble (a forward pass) for knocking them out the 2007 World Cup and they still blame some fictitious waitress named Suzy for their 1995 exit; while South Africa will point to Bryce Lawrence's 20-odd 'missed calls' for their exit in 2011.

In 1999 the Boks paid a dear price for coach Nick Mallett's brain explosion – leaving long-standing captain Gary Teichmann at home and taking an injured Bobby Skinstad along.

We can go on and on, but the fact remains – being No.1 on the world rankings is no guarantee of success at the World Cup.

No doubt top-ranked New Zealand will be outright favourites next year, while South Africa will also be rated a good bet – based on their No.2 position. Then there's Six Nations champions Ireland, who is now No.3 after making significant progress in 2014.

However, a lot can happen in the next nine months – as we have so often seen in the previous seven World Cup tournaments!

We take a look at how the top four teams in each World Cup fared the year before the tournament!

2011Is 2014 a World Cup form guide?

1 New Zealand: In 2010 they played 14, won 13 (92.9 percent) – they were ranked No.1 at the end of the year.

2 France: In 2010 they played 10, won seven (70 percent) – they were ranked No.6 at the end of the year.

3 Australia: In 2010 they played 15, won nine (60 percent) – they were ranked No.2 at the end of the year.

4 Wales: In 2010 they played 12, won two (16.7 percent) – they were ranked No.9 at the end of the year.

2007 Is 2014 a World Cup form guide?

1 South Africa: In 2006 they played 12, won five (41.7 percent) – they were ranked No.4 at the end of the year.

2 England: In 2006 they played 11, won three (27.3 percent) – they were ranked No.7 at the end of the year.

3 Argentina: In 2006 they played eight, won six (75 percent) – they were ranked No.6 at the end of the year.

4 France: In 2006 they played 10, won seven (70 percent) – they were ranked No.2 at the end of the year.

2003 Is 2014 a World Cup form guide?

1 England: In 2002 they played nine, won eight (88.9 percent) – they were ranked No.1 at the end of the year.

2 Australia: In 2002 they played 10, won six (60 percent) – they were ranked No.3 at the end of the year.

3 New Zealand: In 2002 they played 11, won eight (72.7 percent) – they were ranked No.2 at the end of the year.

4 France: In 2002 they played 11, won seven (63.6 percent) – they were ranked No.4 at the end of the year.

1999Is 2014 a World Cup form guide?

1 Australia: In 1998 they played 13, won 11 (84.6 percent) – they were ranked No.2 at the end of the year.

2 France: In 1998 they played nine, won eight (88.9 percent) – they were ranked No.4 at the end of the year.

3 South Africa: In 1998 they played 12, won 11 (91.7 percent) – they were ranked No.1 at the end of the year.

4 New Zealand: In 1998 they played seven, won two (28.6 percent) – they were ranked No.3 at the end of the year.

1995Is 2014 a World Cup form guide?

1 South Africa: In 1994 they played nine, won five (55.6 percent) – they were ranked No.4 at the end of the year.

2 New Zealand: In 1994 they played six, won two (33.3 percent) – they were ranked No.2 at the end of the year.

3 France: In 1994 they played eight, won five (62.5 percent) – they were ranked No.1 at the end of the year.

4 England: In 1994 they played eight, won six (75 percent) – they were ranked No.3 at the end of the year.

1991Is 2014 a World Cup form guide?

1 Australia: In 1990 they played seven, won four (57.1 percent) – they were ranked No.2 at the end of the year.

2 England: In 1990 they played seven, won five (71.4 percent) – they were ranked No.4 at the end of the year.

3 New Zealand: In 1990 they played seven, won six (85.7 percent) – they were ranked No.1 at the end of the year.

4 Scotland: In 1990 they played seven, won five (71.4 percent) – they were ranked No.3 at the end of the year.

1987Is 2014 a World Cup form guide?

1 New Zealand: In 1986 they played six, won three (50 percent)* – they were ranked No.2 at the end of the year.

2 France: In 1986 they played 12, won seven, (58.3 percent) – they were ranked No.3 at the end of the year.

3 Wales: In 1986 they played seven, won five (71.4 percent) – they were ranked No.4 at the end of the year.

4 Australia: In 1986 they played seven, won six (85.7 percent) – they were ranked No.1 at the end of the year.

* This does not include the four-match unofficial series the New Zealand Cavaliers played against South Africa and lost one-three. The Springboks awarded official caps, the All Blacks did not.

By Jan de Koning

@King365ed

@rugby365com

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