Top sides plant seeds for World Cup success
A good showing for Argentina in the inaugural Rugby Championship could give the South Americans an early advantage for Rugby World Cup 2015.
The Pumas sit eighth in the IRB World Rankings, which they can consolidate when the southern hemisphere triumvirate becomes four this weekend.
Adding some spice to the encounters is the fact the rankings on 3 December will dictate the seeding of the 12 sides already qualified for England 2015 for the Pool Allocation Draw.
The sides ranked one to four will occupy band one with the next four forming band two and the remaining four automatic qualifiers making up band three. Each band is then drawn randomly across the four pools for RWC 2015, with the eight qualification places seeded to form the other two bands.
Were the draw to happen today, the three bands of automatic qualifiers would look like this:
Band 1: New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, England
Band 2: France, Wales, Ireland, Argentina
Band 3: Scotland, Samoa, Italy, Tonga
Therefore hosts England could not be drawn in the same pool as world champions New Zealand, but could end up facing two familiar foes in Six Nations rivals, while each pool would feature two sides that reached the quarter finals at RWC 2011.
However, with the inaugural Rugby Championship kicking off this week and the November internationals still to come, there is plenty of scope for change in the IRB World Rankings before the draw is made in London on 3 December.
Scope for change
The margins between bands are certainly not insurmountable with RWC 2011 runners-up France just six hundredths behind England and a place in band one, and Scotland having closed to 1.28 points behind Argentina and 1.88 points of Ireland in seventh.
Scotland had occupied their lowest ever ranking of 12th after a disappointing Six Nations campaign, but did their band two prospects no harm with an unbeaten tour of Oceania – including a win over second ranked Australia – in the June Test window to climb to ninth.
The litmus test for Scotland’s improved standing will come in successive weeks in November against New Zealand, South Africa and Tonga when Andy Robinson’s men will be targeting a big southern hemisphere scalp.
Of course, it may not be Argentina that Scotland are trying to overhaul to get into band two if the Pumas can cause a shock in their Rugby Championship debut season against one of the top three sides in the world.
The Pumas enter the fray against South Africa in Cape Town on Saturday, a few hours after 2011 Tri Nations champions Australia face world champions New Zealand in Sydney.
Hosts v champions?
A week later Argentina host the Springboks in Mendoza, and the Pumas are a tough proposition at home, as the French discovered in June.
The South Africans completed an unbeaten series against England in June, but the Pumas’ pack will not be daunted by the physicality of the Springbok forwards.
The Six Nations and June Tests have already seen some significant changes in the IRB World Rankings with France suffering the most, slipping from third at the turn of the year to their current fifth spot.
England have taken over that spot, but with Fiji, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand to visit Twickenham over consecutive weekends in November and early December the RWC 2015 hosts may be looking over their shoulders at France and Wales.
If they have slipped out of the top four on 3 December then the prospect of the hosts facing the defending champions in the pool stages could become a reality.
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