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How Ireland Could Be World Rugby No.1 With Win Over New Zealand

Should Ireland beat Australia in all three matches of the June series, only one New Zealand loss in their next ten matches will be required to set the stage for Ireland to move to world number one. Mark Archer dreams explains.


New Zealand have deservedly been number one in the World Rugby Rankings for over nine years. In January 2016 they stood so high in the rankings that there was no match at home from which they could obtain rankings points.

This was due to the rule that where a team is ten or more ranking points ahead of their opponents, they get no ranking points from winning. To compound this, three ranking points are tacked on to the home team’s total in any tie. 

New Zealand themselves have faltered just once in an international match since then, in November 2016, when they lost by 40-29 to Ireland in Chicago.

However, the general trend has been towards a take-over of the two and three spots at the top of the rankings by Ireland and England at the expense of Australia and South Africa.  

In the June internationals Ireland travel to Australia, New Zealand play host to France and South Africa host England. 

Due to the ten-point rule, New Zealand cannot gain any ranking points from winning matches in their series against France, who languish 14 points behind them. The best they can do is to hang on to their present 93.99 by winning all three matches.

Ireland on the other hand are fairly close to Australia in the rankings (3.62 points ahead), and will be even closer when the three points home-advantage is added to Australia’s total. As a result, wins for Ireland will yield almost another 3 points bringing them significantly closer to static New Zealand. 

England will also exchange points with South Africa in their matches but even if they win all three in the series, they will not climb out of their number three spot unless Ireland slip up to Australia.

The likely outcome of the June series from a World Rugby rankings point of view is that Ireland will be just 2.3 ranking points behind New Zealand come the end of June. As such, eyes will excitedly turn to the November clash between Ireland and New Zealand in Dublin. 

Before June Internationals                                             After

1 New Zealand 93.99 1 New Zealand 93.99
2 Ireland 89.11 2 Ireland 91.70
3 England 86.23 3 England 88.97
4 Australia 85.49 4 Australia 82.90
5 Scotland 83.83 5 South Africa 81.73
6 South Africa 83.81 6 Argentina 81


The above table is based on three wins from three by New Zealand, Ireland and England, against France, Australia, and South Africa, respectively. 

However, prior to this, Southern Hemisphere teams will be competing in the Rugby Championship, which takes place in August and September 2018.

One might imagine the six matches New Zealand play while Ireland are on summer break might enable them to re-establish the gap at the top. However, the effectiveness with which England and Ireland have been able to displace the other Southern Hemisphere teams means they will once again suffer from the 10-point rule. 

Even if Steve Hansen’s side manage a clean sweep, the return in rankings points will be a minuscule 0.19 of a point.

Conversely, should New Zealand slip up in any of the six fixtures, they will take a 2-point hit. 

Before Rugby Championship                                           After

1 New Zealand 93.99 1 New Zealand 94.18
2 Ireland 91.70
2 Ireland 91.70
3 England 87.37 3 England 87.37
4 South Africa 83.33 4 Australia 83.06
5 Australia 82.90
5 South Africa 82.97
6 Argentina 81.15 6 Argentina 81.16

This table is based on six wins for New Zealand in the Rugby Championship.


When New Zealand come to Dublin on November 17th 2018 for the final round of the Autumn International Series, it is likely they will have an advantage of roughly 2.5 ranking points over Ireland.

The 3-point home-advantage rule will mean that Ireland have the advantage in this tie. Notwithstanding, a win by Ireland would give them 0.8 of a ranking point, and New Zealand would drop by the same amount. That would put Ireland within 0.7 of a ranking point of New Zealand, but would not alter the rankings order.

However, this is a best-case scenario for the All Blacks. 

The table below – in my view a more likely scenario – will result from them having conceded just one defeat in their 10 matches, which include three against France, two against Australia (one away) and one against England (away).

If the All Blacks lose in any one of their matches between now and November 17th, the scene will be set for an Ireland win on November 17th, and the displacement of New Zealand by Ireland at the top of the IRB World Rankings. 

Before Autumn Series                                                   After

1 New Zealand 92.40 1 Ireland 92.55
2 Ireland 91.70 2 New Zealand 92.37
3 England 87.37 3 England 86.81
4 Australia 83.06 4 Australia 83.99
5 South Africa 82.97 5 Scotland 82.28
6 Argentina 81.16 6 South Africa 81.65

The above table shows the outcome of a 20-10 defeat of New Zealand by Ireland on November 17th 2018 at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. New Zealand are presumed to have won both their other matches against Japan and England in the Autumn Series.


If the All Blacks lose in any one of their matches between now and November 17th, the scene will be set for an Ireland win on November 17th, and the displacement of New Zealand by Ireland at the top of the world rankings. 


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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.