European sides vie for ranking points
A quiet week for Test fixtures saw the top sides maintain their status quo in the IRB World Rankings, but the early stages of Rugby World Cup qualification kept several mid-table sides occupied.
With the Rugby Championship having come to a close and a lull before the high-profile northern hemisphere Tests, there was a brief respite in the intense competition for the world top 20.
But the path to Rugby World Cu 2015 continues nonetheless, and with the European phase of RWC qualifying having begun a week earlier it was again time for that region to take the limelight.
On Saturday the European Nations Cup, which also serves as RWC qualifying, saw four sides in the lower half of the IRB World Rankings – Denmark, Andorra, Israel and Serbia – face off in earnest.
In Odense, Denmark could not capitalise on home advantage as they shared the spoils with Andorra in a 6-6 draw.
The stalemate meant the sides’ ranking totals fluctuated slightly, resulting in them swapping places at 61 and 62.
Israel hosted Serbia at the Wingate Institute – the country’s national sports centre – and ran out 48-22 winners to rise one place in the rankings to 55.
The Israelis shunted the Philippines down one place in the process as they improved their standing by almost half a ranking point.
Continued progress would see Israel accrue some of the 2.4 ranking points that separate them from the world top 50.
The reverse meant Serbia lost almost half a ranking point to drop one place to 74th, thereby allowing Peru to move ahead of them.
Much of the week’s action took place in the second-tier level of world rugby, and therefore outside the scope of the world ranking system.
Canada A beat Uruguay, a USA Select XV were downed by Argentina’s Jaguars and Tonga A accounted for their Samoan counterparts.
This weekend will see more European Nations Cup action, with valuable ranking points on offer as well as continued progress towards RWC 2015.
The ENC pool stage continues in divisions 1B, 2C and 2D on Saturday.
In the higher echelons of the competition, Sweden – ranked 38 in the world – take on 30th-placed Ukraine.
On the same day, Bulgaria play Austria and Norway are against Finland – four sides in the lower reaches of the world standings.
World No 2 Australia, meanwhile, will be trying to chip into New Zealand’s ranking points total when the two meet in Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup match.
- The IRB World Rankings are published every Monday at midday UK time.