Heyneke Meyer (pic)
Dubai - As well as winning a host of new admirers for their adventurous approach throughout RWC 2015, beaten semi-finalists Argentina and headline-grabbing Japan have also enjoyed the biggest rise of all the competing nations in the World Rugby rankings.
According to the World Rugby website, both are ranked three places higher than where they were when RWC 2015 began at Twickenham on Friday, September 18.
Los Pumas have moved up from eighth to fifth thanks to their second place finish behind New Zealand in Pool C and the way that they effortlessly brushed Ireland aside in the quarter-finals.
A disappointing World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup campaign this summer left Japan languishing 13th in the rankings, and at that stage few people would have predicted what they would go on to achieve in England: three wins from four and a place in tournament folklore.
The Brave Blossoms’ historic 34-32 win over South Africa in Brighton may not have been enough to book them a place in the knockout stages but it did help them return to the world’s top 10.
With points exchanges doubled to reflect the importance Rugby World Cup matches no-one fared better than Japan, going from 72.06 rating points pre-tournament to 77.05 at its conclusion.
Despite losing 1.14 rankings points during RWC 2015 following narrow defeats to Australia and South Africa, Wales will end the year in fourth having briefly risen to a new high of second following their 28-25 victory over England at Twickenham. They would have stayed in their pre-tournament position of fifth had Argentina not lost to South Africa in the bronze final on Friday.
Georgia’s 17-10 victory over higher-ranked Tonga, in the second game of RWC 2015, contributed to a two-place rise up to 14th for the Lelos. Italy also finished the tournament two places better off than where they started it in 12th despite failing to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.
Scotland’s on-pitch progress was reflected by a one-place rise up to ninth, but Six Nations rivals England and Ireland endured a dramatic fall in the rankings.
At one point the second best ranked team in the world, Ireland slipped three places to sixth after their quarter-final loss to Argentina, while England, the first host nation to exit a Rugby World Cup at the pool stages, now languish in eighth, equally their worst ever position since the rankings began in 2003, after a four-place fall.
Sharing their pain were the three Pacific Island nations. Fiji and Tonga dropped two places to 11th and 13th place respectively while Samoa’s disappointing showing at England 2015 cost them three places and they now find themselves in 15th.
At the top it's a case of as you were, with the 1-2-3 of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa still very much intact. The All Blacks’ lead over the Wallabies has increased to 6.77 points – up 0.55 from six weeks ago – following their 34-17 victory in Saturday’s final.