The latest World Rugby rankings are out – and, if nothing else, have shown why releasing them at this time of the year is a somewhat futile exercise.
However, they have provided good news if you’re an Australian rugby fan: despite suffering through a couple of horrible seasons by the Wallabies, your team has moved up to third. Irish fans will probably be scratching their heads at how the Aussies, even by virtue of a decimal place, have leaped ahead of them given their two latest respective test seasons.
Current World Rugby rankings:
- New Zealand — 95.52
- England — 90.14
- Australia — 85.59
- Ireland — 85.39
- South Africa — 85.03
- Scotland — 82.47
- Wales — 81.73
- France — 79.63
- Fiji — 79.48
- Argentina — 76.93
On the surface, it makes little sense – the Wallabies have been crushed by the All Blacks once this season and failed to put away, up until last weekend anyway, a weak Springbok team. They were also beaten at home by Scotland, a remarkable result given that the Scots were missing their best players due to the British & Irish Lions tour.
Ireland’s last season saw them famously beat the All Blacks and halt England’s march to a world test rugby record. Even though it doesn’t count towards the rankings, it’s worth remembering that they provided a glut of players to the Lions squad that went within a whisker of upsetting the All Blacks.
It seems that the only reason that the Wallabies have squeezed ahead of Ireland is simply because they’ve actually been playing over the last few months rather than actually being any good. Remember, this is the same Australian rugby set up that has just had to cut one of its teams from a Super Rugby competition in which they went winless against New Zealand sides in 2017.
The only somewhat legitimate reasoning as to why the Aussies are ahead would be to assess them on their performance at the last World Cup, where they made the final. But that completely contradicts England’s current position of second, after they famously bombed out of the tournament in the pool stage.
The All Blacks comfortably sit atop the standings, which comes as no surprise after yet another Rugby Championship victory. They’ve occupied the number one spot every year since they were established, dropping to a low of third following the 2003 World Cup.
If anything useful can be read into the list, it’s Argentina’s staggering fall to 10th. This was their position the last time the rankings came out, and shows that a malaise has truly set in to the South American game. The Jaguares entry into Super Rugby seems to have been completely counterproductive, and the national side is about as fun to watch as a field of turnips growing. They now sit behind the likes of Fiji, Scotland and Wales – all sides Los Pumas should go in as comfortable favourites against, given their charge to a World Cup semi final only two seasons ago.
Of course, what this all shows is that releasing the rankings before the November tests means nothing. It doesn’t even do anything to promote interest in the upcoming fixtures, given that Ireland and the Wallabies aren’t even crossing paths to settle the score as to who should be higher on the ladder.
So if it’s not even serving to contrive any sort of intrigue, you’d have to ask why World Rugby bothered releasing this list at all.