RWC: Top spot in rankings on the line
Story and Photo: www.rugbyworldcup.com
AUCKLAND, 14 Oct. – Twenty-five years have passed since Australia last beat New Zealand at Eden Park, but if the Wallabies can end this losing streak with victory in the second semi-final of Rugby World Cup 2011 on Sunday they will replace the All Blacks at the top of the IRB World Rankings.
It would be the first time that Australia have occupied top spot since the rankings were introduced in October 2003 and a victory by more than 15 points could see the Wallabies go into the RWC 2011 final with a cushion of up to 6.43 rating points over the second-ranked side.
Australia, hoping to continue the trait of whoever beats the defending champions going on to lift the Webb Ellis Cup, are likely to have either Wales or France sitting below them, depending on who emerges victorious in the northern hemisphere semi-final on Saturday.
Wales or France would need to also win by 15 points for New Zealand to slip another place to third, a position the All Blacks have occupied only once before, and then only briefly after losing the RWC 2003 semi-final to Australia.
By contrast, a New Zealand victory will strength their position at the top of the rankings, where they have sat for the last 23 months and for longer than any other nation. With New Zealand playing at home the gains for victory will be little more than a rating point for an emphatic win.
However, this would still stretch their advantage at the top to as much as 5.57 points going into the final on 23 October. The good news for Australia is they cannot fall from second place, even with a loss by more than 15 points in tandem with an emphatic win for either Wales or France.
However Australia could be left sitting a mere eight hundredths above Wales if Sam Warburton’s charges can reach a first ever Rugby World Cup Final by beating France by more than 15 points in their first ever meeting in the tournament’s history.
Wales are currently equalling their highest ever position of fourth after beating Ireland in last weekend’s quarter-final and any margin of victory will lift them above South Africa into third, breaking the southern hemisphere stranglehold on the top three of the IRB World Rankings.
A French victory would also lift them above the 2007 champions and see them regain the mantle as the leading northern hemisphere nation from Wales. A third loss of RWC 2011, though, could see Les Bleus fall back to eighth, a position they occupied before beating England 19-12 last weekend.
For this to happen France must lose by more than 15 points to a Welsh side missing their first-choice fly half Rhys Priestland through injury. A smaller margin would see them slip to sixth, swapping places with England. If Wales suffer another semi-final defeat they will also fall to either sixth or eighth.
The IRB World Rankings update every Monday at 12:00 UK time (00:00 NZL time Tuesday).