Ireland equal lowest position in rankings
AUCKLAND, 29 Aug. - Ireland will arrive in New Zealand for Rugby World Cup 2011 occupying their lowest ever position in the IRB World Rankings after slipping another place to eighth on the back of a 20-9 loss to England at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
The loss was Ireland’s fourth in their RWC 2011 warm-up matches, defeats by Scotland, France (twice) and England in August resulting in Declan Kidney’s men not only surrendering their mantle as the leading northern hemisphere nation in the rankings but sliding four places in total.
Ireland could have slipped another place to ninth had England’s victory margin been more than 15 points, but eighth still equals their lowest ever standing which they occupied for almost a year before embarking on their Six Nations Grand Slam winning campaign of 2009.
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They are now the fifth highest northern hemisphere side in the IRB World Rankings, their latest defeat dropping them behind Scotland with France, England and Wales having already usurped them. England have halved their deficit to France with the win in Dublin, but remain fifth.
There was more bad news for Kidney with flanker David Wallace ruled out of RWC 2011 with a serious knee injury which will require surgery, while number 8 Jamie Heaslip limped off and Cian Healy’s departure for New Zealand has been delayed a few days by an eye injury.
New Zealand are another side licking their wounds after surrendering the Tri Nations title to Australia with a 25-20 loss at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday, a defeat which sees their cushion at the top of the rankings cut to only 1.71 points.
The All Blacks had sat 7.74 points above Australia when the Tri Nations began, but after suffering back-to-back defeats for the first time since losing twice to South Africa in the 2009 competition that cushion has been significantly eroded.
With the points exchange system used to calculate the IRB World Rankings doubling for all matches at Rugby World Cup 2011 to reflect the importance of the tournament, New Zealand’s reign at the top could come to an end over the coming months.
Australia’s victory, which secured a first Tri Nations title since 2001, has stretched their advantage over South Africa in third to just over three points, not to mention boosted confidence as they seek to become the first nation to lift the Webb Ellis Cup three times.
Venezuela triumph in South America
These four sides were not the only ones in action over the last seven days with the South American B Championship 2011 drawing to a conclusion in Lima, hosts Peru having to settle for the runners-up spot after a narrow 17-15 loss to Venezuela on Saturday.
Both sides had gone into their round robin finale with unbeaten records after overcoming Colombia and Costa Rica, but a late rally by Venezuela saw them score two tries to recover from 15-5 down and claim the title.
Venezuela, who had climbed one place last week after beating Colombia, have risen another five to 51st on the back of beating Peru with Senegal, Malta, the Cook Islands, Madagascar and Switzerland all slipping one as a result.
Peru’s defeat drops them below China and Malaysia to 63rd, while Colombia fall three places to 73rd – their 27-12 victory over Costa Rica to finish third in the four-team tournament not counting towards the rankings as their opponents are not yet a Full Member Union of the IRB and therefore not ranked.