Ireland seek to avoid new low in rankings
AUCKLAND, 26 Aug. - Ireland’s preparations for Rugby World Cup 2011 have been far from ideal with three defeats in a row this month, but it could get even worse as a loss to England on Saturday will see them slump to their lowest ever position in the IRB World Rankings.
Declan Kidney’s men began August as the leading northern hemisphere nation in fourth behind New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, but defeats by Scotland and home and away to France have already resulted in a fall to seventh.
A loss on home soil at the Aviva Stadium will see Ireland fall below Scotland to eighth, equalling their lowest ever position since the rankings were introduced in October 2003. But if they lose by more than 15 points then Argentina will also climb above them.
England cannot improve their own standing of fifth even with an emphatic victory, merely cut the deficit to France above them, but victory on the same pitch as their Six Nations Grand Slam dreams came crashing down in March could be revenge enough.
Ireland, though, have not lost to England in Dublin since 2003 and a fifth successive win on home soil could see the men in green swap places with their visitors, albeit only if they win by more than 15 points. Any smaller margin and the sides will remain where they are.
The weekend’s other match involving teams counting down to Rugby World Cup 2011 is the Tri Nations title decider in Brisbane between Australia and New Zealand, the top two nations in the IRB World Rankings.
Australia have not won the Tri Nations title since 2001, but victory over the All Blacks will bolster Wallaby confidence ahead of RWC 2011 and could potentially cut the difference between the two rivals to as little as 0.63, a far cry from the 7.74 points when the competition began.
On the other hand, a win and successful title Tri Nations defence by New Zealand will strengthen their position at the top of the rankings, increasing their cushion over Australia to a minimum of 5.71 points.
Australia cannot lose second place even with an emphatic defeat at Suncorp Stadium, although they will slip back into the clutches of defending World Cup champions South Africa.
The IRB World Rankings update every Monday at 12:00 UK time.