Sunday 15 September 2019

Flawed World Rugby rankings system on show with farcical Wales vs Ireland permutations

James Ryan of Ireland celebrates his side's second try scored by team-mate Jacob Stockdale
James Ryan of Ireland celebrates his side's second try scored by team-mate Jacob Stockdale
Joe Schmidt and Warren Gatland. Photo: Sportsfile

Des Berry

Our good friend Agustin Pichot has poured cold water all over the value of Ireland moving to the head of the World Rankings with a win over Wales on Saturday.

In an amazing twist of logic, the Irish can claim the unprecedented prize with a 15-point win in The Principality. 

You couldn’t blame the former Argentine scrum-half, now the vice-chairman of World Rugby, for struggling to hold his tongue.

Pichot has been forthright in his opinion about the merit, or lack thereof, of the mathematical system that throws up the most peculiar calculations.

It was only 13 days ago when the Welsh brushed aside England to overtake New Zealand as the official number one nation in the world.

While the All Blacks have been busy working their way through the best the southern hemisphere can offer, Wales have been ‘warming-up’ for the World Cup.     

"It’s ridiculous! I’m going to change it," said Pichot, in an interview with Argentine website A Pleno Rugby.

"It is a ranking that is badly done. It has no order.

International Rugby Newsletter

Rugby insights and commentary from our renowned journalists like Neil Francis, Will Slattery, Alan Quinlan & Cian Tracey.

"It is all mathematical and I would say that it is almost a matter of marketing."

The South American slant would argue that the Pumas have to make their way in the game against New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.

They say you can only improve from playing the best countries in the world.

The law of diminishing returns kicks in when all that gets you is beaten over and over again. 

In European terms, Italy’s entry into the Six Nations in 2000 was supposed to bring about transformative change.

A move made to raise-up Italy has only served to keep them down through the constant beatings they have taken in springtime.

It isn’t only the Wales ranking that looks incongruous and the sight of Ireland replacing their Celtic cousins would be just about enough to have Pichot spitting out his steak.     

After all, Ireland have lost two of their last three internationals, the bashing by England driving them back behind Warren Gatland’s men, New Zealand and England. 

It is almost laughable that they can scale the heady heights to number one should they dethrone Wales away from home with 15 points to spare.

Needless to say, the score-line does not take into account that this is just a World Cup warm-up with the hosts putting out their second team against an Ireland decorated with no more than four of their first choice.  

This couldn’t be shaping up any better for Warren Gatland as the Kiwi takes his leave of Wales for the last time as a match-day coach.

The luxury of going out with Wales sitting on top of the world is testament to his legacy.

Gatland has handed debuts to large wing Owen Lane and loose-head prop Rhys Carre in amongst a host of familiar faces.

The motivation to maintain the highest standards on the way up the rankings ladder will be there.

The atmosphere in The Principality married to what a career-best performance can mean to the individuals will ensure a fire-breathing reception from the red menace. 

The pressure is all on Ireland to rediscover a semblance of their form as the memory of their last great performance slips further away.  

Online Editors

The Throw-In: Selection dilemma for Dublin and All-Ireland ladies football final preview

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Also in Sport