Fourth spot at stake in IRB World Rankings
With the one month to go marker to Rugby World Cup 2011 only a few days away, eight of the 20 sides gracing the sport’s greatest stage will be in action over the weekend across three continents with changes aplenty possible in the IRB World Rankings.
The highlight of the weekend is the Tri Nations encounter between New Zealand and Australia at Eden Park, a precursor to what many believe could be the Final of Rugby World Cup 2011 at the same venue on 23 October.
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Australia ended a 10-match losing streak against the All Blacks with a 26-24 victory in Hong Kong last October courtesy of James O’Connor’s last gasp try and conversion and will be keen to win two consecutive Tests against New Zealand for the first time since 2001.
The Wallabies, though, do not have the best of records in recent time on New Zealand soil, having lost on their last 12 visits across the Tasman since a 23-15 win in Dunedin in August 2001. At Eden Park the record is even worse with the last Australian victory coming back in 1986.
New Zealand, who currently head Australia by 6.54 rating points at the top of the IRB World Rankings, will be eager to preserve ‘fortress’ Eden Park with another victory, not to mention avenging the loss that cost them a perfect record in 2010.
An All Black victory on home soil will only increase their rating by a maximum of 0.07, but if the Wallabies can break their losing streak in New Zealand then the difference between the traditional rivals could be slashed to just 0.68 points.
While Australia would not be able to dislodge New Zealand from the top spot they have held since November 2009 even with an emphatic win, it would increase their cushion over South Africa to more than four points, the Springboks having returned home after two heavy defeats.
Fourth spot at stake
One position that is definitely up for grabs this weekend is fourth with Ireland, England and France all capable of being the leading northern hemisphere nation in the IRB World Rankings, despite the fact that the latter are not in RWC 2011 warm-up action.
Ireland, one of Australia’s Pool C opponents at RWC 2011, currently hold that mantle but will lose it if they suffer defeat against Scotland at Murrayfield, regardless of the margin or what happens in the encounter between England and Wales at Twickenham, and fall one or two places.
If England beat Wales in the first of back-to-back Tests over consecutive weekends then they will take over fourth spot from a beaten Ireland, but if Martin Johnson’s men also slip to defeat then Les Bleus will rise two places without kicking a ball.
A Welsh victory will see England fall two places to seventh – one above their lowest standing since the rankings were introduced in October 2003 – with Wales potentially swapping places with their hosts, if Ireland lose in Scotland.
Wales can only slip from seventh if they lose by more than 15 points at Twickenham, which would see them swap places with Argentina. Los Pumas, who play a South America XV in a friendly on Saturday, can fall to ninth, though, if Scotland emphatically beat Ireland.
Two other sides counting down to RWC 2011 in action this weekend are USA and Canada, the traditional rivals coming face to face at BMO Field in Toronto on Saturday in the first of two matches over consecutive weekends.
Canada are currently the higher ranked of the two, sitting above the Eagles in 16th spot, and must win by more than 15 points on home soil if they are to climb above Georgia. USA will remain 17th with any margin of defeat, but the sides will swap places if the Eagles win on Canadian soil.
The IRB World Ranknigs update every Monday at 12:00 UK time.