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Ireland on the rise for World Cup draw

By Jonathan Bradley

Despite failing to do the double over the All Blacks in the Aviva on Saturday, Ireland are on the up in the World Rugby rankings and back among the top four.

Rory Best and company's ranking points took only the most marginal of hits after losing at home to the back-to-back World champions but they still moved up one position to fourth thanks to leap-frogging South Africa.

The Springboks' fall comes after they suffered a first ever defeat to Italy in what was the most shocking scoreline so far of the November internationals.

Rising one spot is a significant step for Joe Schmidt's men with the leading quartet in the rankings providing the top seeds for the 2019 World Cup.

The pool stage draw for the tournament in Japan will be made next May, crucially after the Six Nations, but this weekend is the final chance for some southern hemisphere sides to collect ranking points given the differing calendars.

After their dismal day in Florence, South Africa now have only Saturday's visit to Wales to force their own way back into the world's top four and the first group of seeds.

Fail to do so and they will be hoping that Ireland, and perhaps Wales, have disastrous Six Nations campaigns or risk being paired with the likes of New Zealand or England in a 'pool of death'.

Much was made of the system in 2015 when England, Australia and Wales were all in the same pool thanks to the latter's poor ranking when the draw was made some three years prior.

For the 2015 World Cup the cut-off for ranking points was in November 2012, with Ireland also struggling at the time and needing a win over Argentina to stay in the second band.

They duly did that and were rewarded with a pool of France, Italy, Romania and Canada that they ultimately won with four victories from four.

The Pumas, meanwhile, ended up with the All Blacks but were able to get their revenge against the men in green in their quarter-final meeting at the Millennium Stadium.

But Daniel Hourcade's side are in danger of falling into the third group of seeds this time around ahead of meeting England at Twickenham on Saturday.

Their late defeat to Scotland on Saturday saw Vern Cotter's side move up two places and knock them into ninth.

France too are in danger ahead of this weekend's meeting with the All Blacks, teetering on the brink of the third group of seeds in eighth place after losing to Australia at home last weekend.

Belfast Telegraph


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