One last chance for Wales and England
November 25, 2008
Martin Johnson's England side entertain the All Blacks at Twickenham this weekend © Getty Images
With less than a week to go until the Rugby World Cup 2011 Pool Allocation Draw takes place in London on December 1 there are still three teams hoping to secure fourth place in the IRB World Rankings and therefore avoid being paired with either New Zealand, South Africa or Australia.
Argentina currently occupy this position despite losing 17-3 to Ireland - albeit only because Ronan O'Gara failed to convert Tommy Bowe's late try - last Saturday but they will have to wait nervously to see whether England and Wales can leapfrog them this weekend. England will be looking to bounce back from a record 42-6 loss to South Africa by ending New Zealand's hopes of a grand slam tour at Twickenham, while Wales face Australia looking for their first win over a southern hemisphere side in 2008.
In the latest IRB World Rankings, Argentina sit on 81.56 rating points with England fifth on 81.11 and Wales sixth on 79.55, Warren Gatland's side having climbed one spot despite losing to the All Blacks by virtue of France's defeat by Australia. The Pumas will retain fourth spot if both England and Wales end the year with another defeat, although Santiago Phelan's side could also do so even if the Welsh win, providing it is not by a margin of more than 15 points.
If Wales were to stop a run of three successive defeats by the Wallabies - the most recent a 32-20 loss in Cardiff during RWC 2007 - with a convincing victory and England lose then the Welsh would jump above Argentina and England into fourth spot. A narrow win for Wales - allied with an England loss, regardless of the margin - would still see them gain one place at England's expense, but they would still be seeded in Band Two of the 12 pre-qualified teams from last year's event in France for the RWC 2011 Pool Allocation Draw.
England, themselves, can sneak into the top four with victory over New Zealand, a side they have not beaten in six attempts since their 15-13 win in Wellington in June 2003, while their win at Twickenham was a 31-28 triumph the previous November. If England do manage to upset the number one side in the rankings then they will be the ones joining New Zealand, South Africa and Australia in Band One to mean that all four nations to have won the Rugby World Cup will be in different pools in 2011.
In that instance Wales could still climb above Argentina into fifth place with a victory by more than 15 points, but on the flip side if they lose to the Wallabies they would again slip below France. Either way they will still be in Band Two. A New Zealand victory would improve their rating points by around two tenths, but even with an emphatic loss they cannot relinquish top spot, although their cushion over South Africa could be slashed from almost three points to less than three tenths.
Likewise Australia cannot alter their position of third as a win by more than 15 points would still leave them over a point adrift of South Africa, while a loss by a similar margin would reduce their advantage over the fourth side to more than three points. There is only one other match which can impact the IRB World Rankings this weekend, the European Nations Cup Division 3C encounter between Luxembourg and Bulgaria on Saturday.
IRB World Rankings:
1(1) New Zealand 92.43
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