The 19-7 win on Saturday night was not only enough to see Eddie Jones’s side move top of the rankings system for the first time under the Australian, but it also saw the All Blacks drop to third behind the Springboks – their joint-worst ranking of all-time on top of their demotion earlier this year and their 2003 post-World Cup slump.
England have not topped the world rankings since their initial run as No 1s when they were created a month before the 2003 World Cup, with the All Blacks replacing them at the top of the tree in June the following year, and Jones’s side become the fourth different team to sit in first place this calendar year following New Zealand, Wales and Ireland.
Fittingly, the winner of this year’s Rugby World Cup final, which will be competed between England and South Africa on Saturday in Yokohama, will finish the year on top of the World Rugby rankings, although the loser will fall behind the All Blacks should they beat Wales Rugby in the third-place play-off – or behind Wales if Warren Gatland’s side can end their campaign with a victory by more than 15 points.
Should Wales beat the All Blacks by any margin, they will overtake their opponents and leave them at the lowest ever ranking, which would prove quite the unfitting farewell for departing head coach Steve Hansen after all he has achieved with the national team.
Neither England nor South Africa are likely to care too much about ending the year as world No 1 beyond the fact that it will now mean they have also won the World Cup.
But England are attempting to do something that has never been done before in win a World Cup by beating the four biggest southern hemisphere side’s in a row, having already seen off Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, and it would perhaps eclipse what the great All Blacks team of 2015 achieved in defeating both Rugby Championship rivals South Africa and Australia after a quarter-final victory over France, having also beaten the Pumas in the pool stage.
Ireland will finish the year ranked fifth in the world no matter what happens in the Wales vs New Zealand match, with Australia sixth and France seventh. Japan has momentarily moved to an all-time high of sixth following the Wallabies’ defeat against England in the quarter-finals, but the joy did not last as the World Cup hosts were knocked out themselves the following day along with the French, dropping them back behind the Australians.
However, Japan will record an end-of-year high in eighth place, ahead of both Scotland and Argentina.
Current World Rugby rankings
- England (92.29)
- South Africa (90.71)
- New Zealand (89.92)
- Wales (87.21)
- Ireland (84.45)
- Australia (81.90)
- France (80.88
- Japan 79.28
- Scotland (79.23)
- Argentina (78.31)
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