Numbers Game

Explainer: why Ireland must beat Argentina (and what happens if they don't)

We wade through the IRB World Rankings combinations and sort out the mess so you don’t have to.

(©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)

Updated, 10:13

Where are Ireland ranked at the moment?

THE LATEST IRB World Rankings were released yesterday.

Unfortunately, Ireland’s 53-0 crushing of Fiji last weekend was a non-cap international and so doesn’t count for rankings purposes (though, as RTÉ’s Brendan Cole points out, the relative ratings gap between the teams meant a win was worth zero anyway).

However, Deccie and the lads did move up one place to seventh as a knock-on effect from Samoa’s win against Wales, but all it really means is that they must beat Argentina on Saturday now.

Here’s how it stands at the moment:

  • 5. England 81.96
  • 6. Argentina 79.89
  • 7. Ireland 79.04
  • 8. Wales 78.95
  • 9. Samoa 78.79
  • 10. Scotland 77.42
  • 11. Italy 76.61

Why are these rankings so important?

The numbers aren’t just a vanity project. They’re pretty important because the draw for the pool stages of the 2015 Rugby World Cup will be made early next month (3 December) and the seedings are all determined based on world rankings.

The top four countries will be the top seeds and guaranteed to avoid each other until the knockout rounds; the next four will be the second seeds; and countries nine to 12 will be the lowly third seeds, and therefore drawn against two stronger nations which would make progress to the knockout rounds a tough ask.

Who is fighting it out for these second seed spots?

No matter what happens England can’t fall out of the top eight, although they could break back into the top four with the right combination of results.

And no matter what happens, Scotland can’t break into the top eight — even if they beat Tonga by a world record score.

That means that there are essentially five teams — Argentina, Ireland, Wales, Samoa and Italy — battling it out for the three remaining second seed places.

What games should we be keeping an eye on?

Saturday 24th November

  • Ireland v Argentina
  • Italy v Australia
  • England v South Africa
  • France v Samoa
  • Wales v New Zealand

Saturday 1st December:

  • England v New Zealand
  • Wales v Australia

What do Ireland need?

The maths of the whole thing can get a little bit messy but if you’re interested in digging a little deeper, the full technical IRB explanation can be found here. Alternatively, you can have a bit of play around with Niall McKenzie’s (@rawxing) rankings script here.

To break it down:

  • If Ireland beat Argentina by any margin, they will be guaranteed to finish in the top eight.
  • If Ireland lose to Argentina by any margin, they will finish outside the top eight, regardless of other results.
  • If Ireland and Argentina draw, Argentina will finish ahead of Ireland and guarantee their place in the top eight. Ireland will have to wait on other results.

In case of an Ireland-Argentina draw…

With Argentina safe, Ireland would then essentially be competing against three other teams for one of two remaining spots. Here’s what the others would need to overtake Ireland in that case:

  • Wales: One draw or better from their two games against New Zealand and Australia.
  • Samoa: A draw or better against France.
  • Italy: A win against Australia by more than 15 points.

If two or more of the three countries get what they need, Ireland will finish outside the top eight. If only one gets what they need, that country would in finish the top eight along with Ireland.

To put it simply, provided France beat Samoa and Italy don’t trounce Australia, a draw against Argentina would be good enough for Ireland. The fingernails will be well-chewed if it comes to that though.

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