Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Argentina Rise in IRB World Rankings

Los Pumas 22-16 victory over Italy in Verona on Saturday has seen Argentina rise one place in the IRB World Rankings from eighth to seventh to trade places with Scotland. Los Pumas lost to Scotland earlier in the year which resulted in Argentina dropping down the ladder but now Argentina have closed the gap to less than one point behind Ireland who are in sixth place and defeated Samoa on the weekend. France, after defeating Fiji in Nantes, have 82.75 ranking points and are in fifth place. France host Argentina in Montpellier this coming weekend and if Argentina win the match they will overtake both France and Ireland (unless New Zealand lose to Ireland) to sit in fifth place.

Following the tremendous success of Rugby World Cup 2007, Argentina were in third place in the IRB World Rankings and one year latter were in fourth. Argentina dropped in the rankings due to playing test matches without their top players avaliable due to the European club season. Injuries in November 2009 left Argentina without half of its first chioce players which meant Los Pumas toured Europe with a weakened side and consequently dropped in the World Rankings.

Elsewhere, the Americas continue to have three teams ranked in the world´s top 15 following Canada and the United States winning their matches over Spain and Portugal respectively. Victories ensured that both teams gained points but the difference in the rankings between them and Spain and Portugal was too great for either side to move ahead of Japan who sit in thirteenth place. They could both strengthen their positions if they continue to win as both will face Georgia - ranked 17th this month.

Uruguay are the fourth highest ranked team from the Americas and after drawing their Rugby World Cup Final Place Playoff match vs higher ranked Romania on saturday, Los Teros achieved a slight gain but remain in 21st position. Should Uruguay succeed in defeating Romania and thus qualify for Rugby World Cup 2007 they would overtake Namibia to reclaim twentieth position in the world. Namibia, currently in twentieth are the second highest ranked team from Africa behind South Africa. The next best is Morocco in twenty-sixth position. South America, in contrast have Uruguay, Chile and Brazil all ranked in the top thirty.

Despite this, South America continue to be the only continent in world rugby whose winner of the Rugby World Cup qualifiers does not directly advance to the Rugby World Cup. Rather the winner faces North America 2 in a playoff which is unfair to South America. Uruguay were defeated by the USA and entered the race to win the final place playoff. Namibia, in contrast, qualified for New Zealand 2011 after defeating Senegal, Zimbabwe, Cote d´Ivoire and Tunisia but successful qualification included a 13-13 draw vs Cote d´Ivoire and narrow victories of 13-10 over Senegal and 18-13 over Tunisia. Uruguay, in contrast were undefeated in the CONSUR (South American) qualification zone which included higher ranked opponents than those Namibia faced in Africa. Uruguay were very impressive and scored big wins vs Brazil and Chile - much bigger than those achieved by Namibia.

Namibia being the winner of the African section of Rugby World Cup Qualification every time since 1999 has never gone on to win matches at a Rugby World Cup. In fact, Namibia has the worst record in the history of all teams at Rugby World Cups having played in three tournaments but never having won a match. No other team has done this. All teams with three or more Rugby World Cup appearances has won matches. Of those who have competed at the Rugby World Cup on two occasions the worst team is also from Africa - Zimbabwe who competed at Rugby World Cup 1987 and 1991 and were winless. Cote d´Ivoire competed at Rugby World Cup 1995 and were winless while Namibia lost all matches by big scores to Canada, Fiji and France at Rugby World Cup 1999 and then again to Argentina, Australia, Ireland and Romania at Rugby World Cup 2003 and to Argentina, France, Georgia and Ireland at Rugby World Cup 2007. Namibia also hold the record for losing by the biggest margin in a Rugby World Cup match - 145 vs Australia in 2003 in which they conceeded 22 tries which is another record. Despite facing Georgia in 2007 their best result was a 32-17 loss vs Ireland in Bordeaux in France 2007. Georgia defeated Namibia 30-0 in France 2007 but lost 24-12 to Uruguay in Australia 2003. Uruguay also defeated Spain 27-15 at Rugby World Cup 1999.

Clearly, the IRB cannot justify giving Africa an automatic qualifying place and not giving South America one. The record is unquestionable. No country from the Americas - north or south has a winless record at Rugby World Cup´s. Europe has two in Portugal and Spain and Africa has three in Cote d´Ivoire, Nambia and Zimbabwe. There are two sensible solutions - expand the Rugby World Cup to include more teams or remove Africa´s direct qualification and make it a playoff between the top African vs South American qualifiers.

Current Top 21 Ranked Teams in the World
4 ENGLAND 83.61
5 FRANCE 82.75
6 IRELAND 81.05
8 SCOTLAND 79.81
9 WALES 77.67
10 FIJI 74.39
11 SAMOA 74.02
12 ITALY 72.35
13 JAPAN 71.45
14 CANADA 69.62
15 USA 68.50
16 TONGA 67.35
17 GEORGIA 66.38
18 RUSSIA 65.56
19 ROMANIA 65.03
20 NAMIBIA 62.69
21 URUGUAY 61.45

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