IRB World Rankings

IRB World Rankings

The IRB World Rankings is a ranking system for men's national teams in rugby union. The teams of the member nations of IRB (International Rugby Board), governing body, are ranked based on their game results with the most successful teams being ranked highest. A point system is used, with points being awarded based on the results of IRB-recognized international matches. Under the system, rankings are based on a team's performance, with more recent results and more significant matches being more heavily weighted to help reflect the current competitive state of a team. The ranking system was introduced after the 2003 Rugby World Cup, with the first edition of the new series of rankings issued on October 20, 2003.

Uses of the rankings

The rankings are used by the IRB to rank the progression and current ability of the of its member nations, but the data were historically used by IRB for very few things. Through 2007, the rankings were not even used as part of the calculation to seed competitions such as the Rugby World Cup; the IRB instead used results from previous World Cups for this purpose.

This, however, has changed; the IRB announced on 22 February 2008 that the World Rankings would be used to seed teams for the 2011 Rugby World Cup pool allocation draw. [cite press release|url= |title=IRB World Rankings used for RWC 2011 draw |publisher=International Rugby Board |date=2008-02-22 |accessdate=2008-02-28] The draw for the 2011 World Cup will take place in December 2008, based on the world rankings as of 1 December.

Rank leaders

IRB World Ranking Leaders
IRB World Ranking leaders
When the system was introduced, England debuted as the top ranked team following victory in the 2003 Rugby World Cup. However, New Zealand took the lead from 7 June, 2004. After winning the 2007 Rugby World Cup final, South Africa became only the third team to achieve first place in the rankings. The first two fixtures of the 2008 Tri Nations resulted in the top two teams in the rankings switching places. First, the All Blacks regained the top spot after defeating South Africa in the Tri Nations opener on 5 July 2008 in Wellington. One week later, the Springboks returned the favour in Dunedin, scoring their first win over the All Blacks in New Zealand since 1998, and subsequently reclaimed the top spot, only for the All Blacks to defeat both Australia and South Africa in August 2008 to regain the top spot by a considerable margin.

Current calculation method

All IRB member countries have been given a rating that is in the range of 0 to 100 with the top side in the world achieving a rating of about 90 points. The actual point system is calculated using a 'Points Exchange' system, in which sides receive points from each other based upon the match result. Whatever one side gains, the other loses. The exchanges are based on the match result, the ranking of each team, and the margin of victory. There is also an allowance for home advantage. As the system aims to depict current team strengths, past successes or losses will fade and be superseded by more recent results. Thus, it is thought that it will produce an accurate picture depicting the actual current strength and thus rank of the nations. [cite web| url= |title=Rankings Explanation |accessdate=2007-09-16] The rankings are responsive to results and it is possible to climb to the top from the bottom (and vice-versa) in less than 20 matches. As all matches are worth a total of 0 points (as whatever one side gains, the other loses) there is no particular advantage to playing more matches. Under the system, a country has a certain rating, which stays the same until they play again. Although matches often result in points exchanges, relatively 'predictable' results lead to very minor changes, and may result in no change to either side's rating at all.

How it works

The system ensures that it is representative of the teams' performance despite playing differing numbers of matches per annum, and the differing strength of opposition that teams have to face. The factors taken into account are as follows:
*Match result
*Match status
*Opposition strength
*Home advantage

Match result

For each match played points exchanges are awarded for the following five outcomes and was developed using results of international matches from 1871 to the present day:
* a win or loss by more than 15 points
* a win or loss by up to 15 points
* a draw

Match status

Different matches have different importance to teams, and the IRB has tried to respect this by using a weighting system, where the most significant matches are in the World Cup Finals. Thus, points exchanges are doubled during the World Cup Finals to recognise the unique importance of this event. All other full international matches are treated the same, to be as fair as possible to countries playing a different mix of friendly and competitive matches across the world. Matches that do not have full international status between two member countries do not count at all.

Opposition strength

Obviously, a win against a very highly ranked opponent is a considerably greater achievement than a win against a low-rated opponent, so the strength of the opposing team is a factor. Thus match results are more important than margins of victory in producing accurate rankings. This is because when a highly ranked tier 1 team plays a lowly-ranked tier 3 team and manages to beat them by over 50 points, it does not indicate how either team will perform in the future.

Home advantage

When calculating points exchanges, the home side is handicapped by treating them as though they are three rating points better than their actual current rating. This results in the home side gaining fewer points for winning and losing more points for losing. Because of this, any advantage that a side may have by playing in front of their home crowd is cancelled out.

New and dormant nations

All new member nations start with 40 points, which is provisional until they have completed 10 test matches. When countries merge, the new country inherits the highest rating of any of the two countries but when they split, the new countries will inherit a rating at a fixed level below the rating of the original country.

Countries that have not played a test in a couple of years are removed from the ranking system and the list but if they are active again, they will pick up their ratings from where they left off.


External links

* [ Official World Rankings]

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