Tonga hit new heights in rankings
AUCKLAND, 3 Oct. - Tonga’s reward for causing one of the biggest upsets in Rugby World Cup history, with their 19-14 victory over France on Saturday, is a place in the top 10 of the IRB World Rankings for the first time.
The Ikale Tahi’s deserved win in their final Pool A match has lifted them four places to ninth, equalling the highest position occupied by their Pacific Island rivals Fiji and Samoa since the rankings were introduced in October 2003.
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Tonga now sit one below France, who have dropped beneath Ireland, Wales and Argentina to eighth. This is the lowest position France have ever occupied, the last time being before they beat New Zealand 27-22 in Dunedin in June 2009.
Despite the fall by Les Bleus, the quarter-finalists of Rugby World Cup 2011 are also the top eight nations in the latest IRB World Rankings in the order of New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, England, Ireland, Wales, Argentina and France.
Samoa, Italy and Canada had already slipped below the victorious Tonga, but Scotland’s heartbreaking 16-12 defeat to their oldest rivals England at Eden Park later that evening also meant they did as well - into 10th.
The loss, allied with Argentina’s come-from-behind, 25-7 win over Georgia on Sunday, means Scotland return home having failed to reach the knockout stages for the first time. Argentina’s win improved their rating by six tenths, lifting them above France but not seventh ranked Wales.
Wales were in impressive form themselves on Sunday, scoring nine tries to overwhelm Fiji 66-0 in Hamilton and confirm their quarter-final berth as Pool D runners-up. The win over 16th ranked Fiji did not affect either side’s rating.
Irish eyes are smiling
The next opponents for Wales will be Ireland in the first quarter-final on Saturday, the Irish having beaten Italy 36-6 in Otago Stadium on Sunday to create a piece of history, having never before finished top of their pool in RWC history.
Ireland’s fourth successive victory at RWC 2011 has pushed their advantage over Wales through the two-point barrier and with France’s fall they are now the second highest northern hemisphere nation, just behind fourth-ranked England.
With South Africa and Australia to meet in the quarter-finals this weekend, the southern hemisphere stranglehold on the top three could come to an end, England having closed to within three tenths of the Wallabies after beating Scotland.
Georgia and Italy were two sides to improve their rating over the past seven days despite defeats on Sunday, which reduced any gain. The Lelos remain 14th despite their gain of just over a point on the back of a 25-9 victory over European rivals Romania on Wednesday, a day after Italy had beaten USA 27-10.
Sandwiched between Italy and Georgia are Canada, who fought back to earn a 23-23 draw and deny 15th ranked Japan a first Rugby World Cup win in 20 years last Tuesday. The draw - against a lower-ranked side - has meant a reduction of eight tenths in Canada’s rating.
Canada’s 79-15 loss to New Zealand in Wellington on Sunday did not have an impact on the rankings, the All Blacks lying 12 places and nearly 17 points above the Canucks. Two other results not having an effect were South Africa’s win over Samoa and Australia’s defeat of Russia.
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