Israel and Netherlands on rise in rankings
The Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifying picture has become a little clearer in Europe after the winners of Divisions 2A to 2D were confirmed over the weekend following the latest round of European Nations Cup matches.
Israel were already confirmed as Division 2B winners before beating Denmark 46-3 in Netanya, a result which lifts them two places to a new high of 50th in the latest IRB World Rankings and condemns their visitors to a one place fall to 62nd.
The Israelis now await the winner of the Round 1 play-off between Slovenia and Division 2D winners Luxembourg, which takes place on 4 May. The winner of this will then face the Division 2A winner, the Netherlands, in September in Round 3.
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Cyprus won Division 2C but do not progress as they are not currently a Full Member of the International Rugby Board. Therefore, Slovenia, as runners-up, will face Luxembourg after edging Hungary on the head-to-head rule after both finished with 10 points.
Hungary came closer than anyone else has to beating Cyprus in more than five years, battling back to lose only 16-15 in Esztergom. The Division 2C result has no bearing on the IRB World Rankings as Cyprus are not a member of the International Rugby Board.
The Hungarians, who hosted the first Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifier in Europe, miss out on a place in the Round 1 play-off after Slovenia beat Austria 22-20. The win does not improve Slovenia’s position of 82nd, but does close them to within four tenths of Hungary above.
Austria remain 92nd, but now closer to Luxembourg below them. Greece also remain in the same position they entered the weekend of 99th, although they have slipped slightly further behind American Samoa, UAE and Mauritius.
The other Division 2D match over the weekend saw Bosnia & Herzegovina run out 19-15 winners over Finland, but the result had no impact on the rankings with the sides remaining 86th and 100th respectively.
The Netherlands, like Israel, topped their division with an unbeaten record after overcoming Croatia 29-24 in Zagreb. The win lifts the Dutch two places to 34th and condemns Croatia to a four place fall to 49th.
There were also two Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifiers in Asia over the weekend, but neither Japan’s record 121-0 win over the Philippines or Hong Kong’s 53-7 win over the United Arab Emirates had any impact on the rankings due to the differences between the teams.
Japan, the highest ranked Asian nation in 15th, scored 18 tries against HSBC Asian 5 Nations Top 5 newcomers the Philippines – who are ranked 56th – in Fukuoka. Hong Kong, without all their Sevens players, were also too strong for a UAE side ranked 67 places below them.
Two other matches over the last seven days that had no impact on the rankings were Brazil’s two victories over Mexico in Sao Paulo. Brazil, using the matches as a warm-up for the South American Championship, won 50-14 and 76-5 against the Mexicans, who sit 39 places below them.