World Cup power rankings: Movers and shakers
OPINION: The 2019 World Cup is about to enter its third week and there has been some substantial movement in the latest power rankings, not least due to Japan’s highly impressive win over Ireland in Pool A.
South Africa and Wales are among the other risers whilst Ireland and Australia have fallen from their previous spots, as all 20 sides jockey for position and attempt to qualify for the quarterfinals.
For the third week in a row, New Zealand is sitting pretty in top spot, something which is unlikely to now change, unless Italy can give them a shock next week.
- New Zealand (Previous rank: 1)
The All Blacks backed up their victory over South Africa with a 63-0 jaunt against Canada and they have done nothing to dispel the notion that they are the favourites for the trophy. The gap may have been lessened by the chasing pack over the last couple of years, but New Zealand is still the best overall rugby team on the planet right now.
- England (Previous rank: 3, up 1)
Despite not playing this week, England rise by default, with Ireland taking a significant tumble down the rankings. England looked professional and unfazed by their first two outings which, somewhat expectedly, resulted in two bonus-point wins. Their first true challenge comes against Argentina on Saturday.
- South Africa (Previous rank: 4, up 1)
The Springboks fell last week due to their lack of ruthlessness against the All Blacks, something which they made up for in their 57-3 win over Namibia. Their African rivals aren’t the biggest test on the Boks’ schedule and, a potential upset against Italy aside on Friday, Rassie Erasmus’ side should be cruising into the quarter-finals, where they could well see a Rugby World Cup rematch with Japan.
- Wales (Previous rank: 5, up 1)
Winning the crunch game of their pool against Australia has done wonders for the spirit of Welsh fans. Warren Gatland and his team are now in complete control of Pool D and should results go to form against Fiji and in Pool C, they will avoid England at the quarter-final stage. Wales look to be building nicely as the tournament develops.
- Japan (Previous rank: 8, up 3)
Starting out the Rugby World Cup in 10th, Japan has now moved up a total of five spots, something which is certainly warranted based on their 19-12 victory over Ireland. They have shown that they are capable of knocking off tier one sides when they play to their potential and home advantage, particularly comfort in the humid conditions, is proving to be a significant one for the Brave Blossoms.
- Ireland (Previous rank: 2, down 4)
Joe Schmidt’s side looked abject against Japan and fall significantly as a result. They should still qualify for the quarter-finals, something which has been helped by their win over Russia on Thursday, but even that performance looked laboured for large portions of the game. They still have the Samoa game to tune-up ahead of the knockouts, but Ireland looks significantly short of peaking currently.
- Australia (Previous rank: 6, down 1)
The loss to Wales causes a small fall for the Wallabies and although the scores were close come the final whistle in that game, it was a contest that Wales controlled for the majority. Australia is still more than capable of upsetting the best teams in this tournament on their day, although they don’t look to have the consistency to be a real threat for the title at the moment.
- France (Previous rank: 7, down 1)
Les Bleus have looked pedestrian so far in the tournament and if they finish second in Pool C, as they are currently tracking to, Wales are unlikely to be too concerned by the challenge. France has won both of their games so far and sit just a point behind England in the group standings. That said, their 33-9 bonus-point win over the United States on Wednesday certainly flattered the European side.
- Argentina (Previous rank: 9)
After losing narrowly to France in the opening week, Mario Ledesma would have been looking for a backlash from his side against Tonga. Although they triumphed 28-12, it was far from a convincing performance from Los Pumas and they will need to make dramatic improvements to knock off England on Saturday and resurrect their chances of making the quarter-finals.
- Italy (Previous rank: 10)
Both of Italy’s wins came in the opening week, so there’s been little opportunity for them to move here. They play South Africa on Friday and will be buoyed by memories of their win over the Boks in Florence in 2016. The Azzurri have grown over the two games so far and although an upset is unlikely, it’s not impossible in Shizuoka.
- Scotland (Previous rank: 12, up 1)
Gregor Townsend got his needed resurgence against Samoa on Monday and Scotland were excellent value for their 34-0 win over the Pacific Islanders. They will now need to beat Russia and then see off hosts Japan in the final pool game so there is still plenty to do, but at least the mood in camp will have been boosted after the debacle against Ireland.
- Fiji (Previous rank: 15, up 3)
Fiji looked back to close to something near their best in the second half of their game against Georgia, as they raced through the gears and scored some excellent tries in testing conditions. It’s likely too late to save their quarter-final ambitions, but if they can replicate that showing against Wales, they will give the European side plenty to think about.
- Georgia (Previous rank: 11, down 2)
Despite being competitive in the first half, Georgia’s game with Fiji was illuminating as to the Lelos’ position in the current global hierarchy. They were comfortably outmatched after the interval and weren’t able to impose their dominance at the scrum or in the tight as they would have liked. An upset win over Australia looks unlikely, although they retain a puncher’s chance.
- Tonga (Previous rank: 16, up 2)
Tonga was extremely unlucky not to take something out of their game with Argentina. Had Tomas Lavanini’s shoulder charge been called at the end of the first half in that game and a penalty try given, Tonga may well have come away with a bonus point or potentially even more. They dominated much of the second half and will have given themselves plenty to be confident about heading into their game with France.
- Samoa (Previous rank: 13, down 2)
Cracks that the win over Russia had papered over were quickly shown to still exist when Samoa met with Scotland on Monday. They were well beaten in all facets in that game and will need to be much better to trouble Japan on Saturday. Injuries and suspensions have not helped the Islanders.
- Uruguay (Previous rank: 14, down 2)
Uruguay’s 33-7 loss to a heavily rotated Georgian team was probably a fairer reflection of where they are right now than the upset win over Fiji, although they are a team that continues to do themselves credit at this Rugby World Cup. A number of individuals are standing out for Los Teros and the future does at least look relatively bright for the South Americans.
- USA (Previous rank: 17)
The Eagles were highly competitive against France on Wednesday and kept it to a one-score game until the 66th minute. Unfortunately for the USA, despite being dogged, resilient and frustrating a poor French side, they offered little in terms of attacking threat themselves. France left the door wide open and unfortunately Gary Gold’s side wasn’t able to walk through it.
- Russia (Previous rank: 19, up 1)
A second straight week of ranking rises for Russia, despite having lost all three of their games at the tournament so far. As they were against Japan and Samoa, Russia was competitive with Ireland for vast swathes of their game in Kobe, despite not having the cutting edge to really hurt the tier one side. They’ve won a lot of fans in their three defeats.
- Namibia (Previous rank: 18, down 1)
Namibia may have scored a few tries against Italy in their opener but there was far less for them to celebrate in an extremely one-sided loss to South Africa on Saturday. Their looming game with Canada is the crunch fixture for them in Pool B, in what has been a challenging group for the two tier two teams.
- Canada (Previous rank: 20)
Unfortunately for Kingsley Jones, his side retains bottom spot in these rankings, after they followed up their loss to Italy with a 63-0 defeat at the hands of the All Blacks. Canada actually did well to keep the score at under a point a minute, as New Zealand blew the North American side away in the first 20 minutes of both halves.
By Alex Shaw, RugbyPass