England hoping Samoa upset the odds - again
November 19, 2012
England will be hoping that Samoa can conjure a similar result to their stunning upset of Wales last Friday night © PA Photos
England must beat South Africa and hope that Samoa upset France on Saturday if they are to climb back into the top four of the world rankings this weekend.
The four leading sides in the International Rugby Board's official rating following the completion of the end of year internationals will be rewarded with a top seeding for the 2015 Rugby World Cup draw on December 3 and therefore will not be drawn alongside each other in the same pool.
New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and France currently occupy those positions with England, who will host the sport's showpiece event in less than three years' time, looking to force their way into the reckoning and avoid one of the sport's biggest sides in the early stages of the tournament.
Victories over Australia and Argentina have put France in control of their own destiny ahead of their last outing of the year against Samoa but the Islanders' victory over Six Nations champions Wales last weekend has the French on their guard.
A victory for France would see them keep England at bay but a defeat and a big win for Stuart Lancaster's side against South Africa would see them climb into the top four with their exact ranking dependent on Australia's return from their game against Italy.
Things begin to get a little complicated if France were to suffer a narrow defeat (by 15 points or less) and England were to beat the Boks by a similar margin with IRB officials then forced to go beyond the two decimal points they use for published ranking as the sides would be locked on 83.07 points. In such a scenario, England would edge ahead of their cross-Channel rivals.
Either way, depending on results, England may have one final opportunity to shake up the world order when they tackle New Zealand in their final clash of the year a week later.
A similarly fascinating battle is set to play out for the second group of seeds - those that are placed 5th-8th on the ranking. Those places are currently occupied by England, Argentina Ireland and Wales with Samoa threatening to become the first Tier 2 nation to break into the top eight in the world.
Victory over France would see Samoa make history while Ireland and Argentina will go head-to-head in a clash that will go a long way to deciding their World Cup fate. Wales, who will tackle New Zealand on Saturday, are in real danger of dropping out of the top eight and should that occur then they will face two of the sides above them in pool play at RWC'15. However, like England, they will have one final chance to boost their ranking when they tackle Australia at the start of next month.
A loss for Ireland, in tandem with other results, could see them plummet to 10th position and leave Declan Kidney's men facing a pool with two sides ranked higher than them. On the flip side, a loss for the Pumas and they could be the ones slipping out of the top eight.
Scotland are resigned to again being in band three for a Pool Allocation Draw as even a comprehensive win against Tonga this weekend will have little bearing on their current 10th spot. The Scots were drawn with two higher ranked sides for RWC 2011 and missed out on a quarter-final spot for the first time.
Italy may currently be ranked 11th but it is theoretically possible for them to squeeze into a top eight spot, providing they can record a first ever win over the Wallabies - and by more 15 points - and other results go their way.
If the Pool Allocation Draw was to happen today (19 November), the bands would be as follows:
Band 1: New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, France
All 12 automatically qualified teams are in action this weekend. Below is a table of exactly how this weekend's results could affect the automatically qualified teams' ratings points.
Ireland v Argentina, Dublin
England v South Africa, Twickenham
Italy v Australia, Firenze
Scotland v Tonga, Aberdeen
Wales v New Zealand, Cardiff
France v Samoa, Paris
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter
While the Super Rugby season enters the all-important knockout phase, elsewhere pre-season training never looked so enjoyable. We round-up the best snaps in our Week in Pictures
"Our scrums and lineouts are sometimes not that good but our men are very brave." Ken Borland finds that rugby is on the rise in Senegal
Laurie Fisher talks about the Brumbies and Gloucester, and provides revealing thoughts on the player involvement during the glory days in Canberra