AUCKLAND, 17 Oct. - France’s reward for reaching a third Rugby World Cup Final is a rise to number three in the latest IRB World Rankings, thus becoming the first northern hemisphere nation to occupy this position in nearly 16 months.
Les Bleus were the last side to break the Tri Nations' stranglehold on the top three, albeit only for a week as their 41-13 loss in Argentina on 26 June 2010 allowed Australia to regain the place they had lost on the back of a defeat by England on home soil the previous weekend.
The tense 9-8 victory over 14-man Wales in the first semi-final at Eden Park on Saturday sees France climb above not only their opponents but also South Africa, who slip out of the top three for the first time since the beginning of Rugby World Cup 2007.
Wales have slipped two places to sixth, the position they occupied when they arrived in New Zealand, after missing out on a first ever Rugby World Cup Final appearance, with England climbing one spot as a result.
The second semi-final did not result in a positional change, but New Zealand have improved their rating by seven-tenths following a commanding 20-6 victory over Australia which set up a repeat of the inaugural Rugby World Cup Final in 1987 against France.
New Zealand, who would have surrendered top spot with defeat, now have a cushion of 4.85 rating points over Australia at the top of the rankings. Australia were never in danger of losing second spot, even with defeat, and still remain 1.7 points above France.
Europeans on the rise
The Rugby World Cup 2011 semi-finals were not the only Tests over the weekend to have an impact on the rankings with two matches in the European Nations Cup 2012 resulting in positional changes further down.
Poland made the most of home advantage to run out 20-13 winners over the Czech Republic in their Division 1B encounter and climb four places to 30th, their highest ranking in over two years. The Czechs fall to Poland’s previous position of 34th.
Meanwhile, Denmark have climbed one place to 68th after beating Norway 28-5 in a Division 2C match which also doubled as the final fixture of the 2011 Viking Tri Nations. Denmark climb above Serbia by mere thousandths of a rating point, while 90th ranked Norway slip closer to Vanuatu below them.
Bosnia & Herzegovina were convincing 48-15 winners over Slovakia in Division 3, but the result has no impact on the rankings as their opponents are not yet a Full Member Union of the International Rugby Board (IRB) and therefore not ranked. This was also the case for Rwanda’s 28-3 defeat of Burundi in the Africa Cup Division 2 South in Kigali last Friday.