ON THE EDGE
Boks back at No.2
Mon, 12 Nov 2012 14:51
All to play for in the weeks to come
South African and France were the big movers after the first round of November Test matches.
France's resounding victory over Australia was more than mere payback for a run of defeats stretching back to 2005; it also gave Les Bleus a head start in the race to World Cup 2015.
The 33-6 win at the Stade de France on Saturday ended a five-match losing sequence against the tourists while lifting the Frenchmen to the coveted fourth spot in the IRB World Rankings.
On December 3, the rankings will determine the seeding for the 12 directly qualified teams for England 2015.
The teams ranked one to four will be kept apart at the pool stage, which makes the battle for a top-four spot especially relevant.
France's elevation to fourth in the rankings comes at the expense of England, now fifth.
Their dominant 54-12 win over Fiji at Twickenham had no impact on either side's rating points, as a result of the 10 places and 12.49 rating points separating the two teams.
Australia drop from second to third in the rankings with the heavy loss in France and are now less than a quarter of a rating point ahead of the French.
More worryingly for coach Robbie Deans is the fact that the Wallabies now have less than a two-point cushion over fifth ranked England, their next opponents, and will be desperate to preserve their top four status.
South Africa profited from the Wallabies' contrasting fortunes to move to second behind New Zealand.
The Springboks' 16-12 victory over Ireland boosts their ranking points to 85.50, though the All Blacks are way out in front with 92.91.
The result shunts Ireland down to eighth, their seventh spot taken by Argentina thanks to events in Cardiff.
The Pumas, battle-hardened by some mighty efforts in defeat during Rugby Championship, overturned Wales 26-12 on their own patch.
As the rankings stand after the first weekend of a packed month of internationals, France would avoid New Zealand, South Africa and Australia until at least the quarterfinals.
England's fate is very much in their own hands, with Australia, South Africa and New Zealand coming up over consecutive weekends before the Pool Allocation Draw in London.
Wales, Argentina and Ireland are all in the battle for ranking places five to eight, with Scotland ninth.
Scotland's failure to record their first-ever victory over New Zealand - the All Blacks triumphing 51-22 - leaves their points unchanged on 77.97, but they are little more than one ranking point behind Ireland.
The Irish risk dropping into the third band of seeds for the England 2015 Pool Allocation Draw.
As they stand, the Pool Allocation Draw seedings would be:
Band 1: New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, France
Band 2: England, Wales, Argentina, Ireland
Band 3: Scotland, Samoa, Italy, Tonga
The All Blacks' next opponents are Italy, who maintained their 11th place with a 28-23 win over Tonga, but the Pacific Islanders ran the home team close in Brescia.
A comprehensive 42-12 victory over Canada in the IRB International Rugby Series in Colwyn Bay on Friday consolidated Samoa's position in 10th, while the USA (17th) notched a 40-26 away win over Russia to send them down one place to 20th.
Japan's 34-23 win over Romania in Bucharest, meanwhile, lifts them one place to 15th.
Namibia edged past Zimbabwe 37-33 in the opening match of a Tri-Nations tournament with Spain in Windhoek to rise to 21st and push Uruguay, who were defeated 32-25 by Portugal, down to 22nd.
Portugal's reward for a win in Montevideo is a three-place rise to 24th, a position they will hope to improve by ending their South American tour with victory over Chile this weekend.
Top 20 on the IRB rankings:
(Previous ranking in brackets)
1 (1) New Zealand 92.91
2 (3) South Africa 85.50
3 (2) Australia 84.82
4 (5) France 84.58
5 (4) England 83.09
6 (6) Wales 80.60
7 (8) Argentina 80.29
8 (7) Ireland 79.04
9 (9) Scotland 77.97
10 (10) Samoa 77.14
11 (11) Italy 76.61
12 (12) Tonga 74.22
13 (13) Canada 71.39
14 (14) Fiji 70.60
15 (16) Japan 68.89
16 (15) Georgia 67.95
17 (17) United States 67.15
18 (18) Romania 63.58
19 (20) Spain 61.63
20 (19) Russia 61.51
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