World rugby rankings out of tune with reality

Springboks come up against the world champion All Blacks in their Rugby World Cup (RWC) opener in 2019.
Springboks come up against the world champion All Blacks in their Rugby World Cup (RWC) opener in 2019.
Image: AFP

The musical chairs that have become the world rugby rankings over the last month or so are a little out of tune with reality.

Three teams have ascended to the top of the pile in as many weeks which for some may represent the vibrancy and dynamism of the system‚ but for others the rankings‚ especially the top places‚ is a fool’s paradise in the months and weeks leading up to the Rugby World Cup (RWC) that kicks off next Friday.

New Zealand‚ Wales‚ New Zealand again and Ireland have held the top spot over the last five weeks and former England RWC winner Will Greenwood believes there’s an easy way of restoring order.

“I think they’ve got to throw out world rankings for RWC warm-up games.

"I think after the Rugby Championships finishes you leave it until the RWC. World rankings during this period offer nothing to people‚” said the former centre.

The proponents of a rankings moratorium will argue that the world rankings are hardly in the deliberations of head coaches as they plot and scheme in the months leading up to the RWC.

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The coaches tend to chop and change their squad as they test combinations and learn more about the depth of their squad.

“In RWC warm-up games everyone is trialling and experimenting and those matches don’t feel like Test matches‚" he continued.

"I don’t want to take anything away from Wales because it was an amazing achievement to get to number one.

“It does‚ however‚ seem extraordinary that on the day New Zealand beat Australia 36-0 and Wales beat England‚ by whatever it was in Cardiff‚ the All Blacks can lose the number one spot beating one of the great sides by that margin.

“Then Ireland could have gone on top had they beaten England‚” said Greenwood.

Ireland‚ of course‚ have since gone to the top ironically on the same weekend New Zealand beat Tonga by a whopping 92-7. Ireland got to the top following their 19-10 win over Wales‚ who had held the top spot for two weeks before New Zealand surged past them.

The current volatility in the rankings is also glaringly illustrated in the fact that the defeat to Ireland saw Wales tumble four places to fifth place in the rankings.

They take the spot occupied by the Boks last week.

Rassie Erasmus’s side moved up to fourth following their win over Japan.

World Rugby Rankings as at 09.09.19

1 Ireland 89.47

2 New Zealand 89.40

3 England 88.13

4 South Africa 87.34

5 Wales 87.32

6 Australia 84.05

7 Scotland 81.00

8 France 79.72

9 Fiji 77.43

10 Japan 76.70