New Zealand Rugby News

August 9, 2015
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Wales have moved to a new high of second in the latest official World Rugby rankings following their dramatic Rugby World Cup group A win over England at Twickenham. The 28-25 victory propelled Wales from fourth to second in the rankings, with the All Blacks still number one. But Herald sports writer Dylan Cleaver doesn't agree with the world rankings. Here's where he thinks Wales, and the rest of the teams, should sit.

2-0 (9pts, 1st in Pool C)

This was relatively clear cut in only that the teams that should be starting to emerge as real contenders have underwhelmed almost as much as the All Blacks did against Namibia. The All Blacks are trying to shift through the gears but like an old Holden Kingswood, the links are a bit iffy and moving that column-change between 2nd and 3rd is proving tricky. They allowed only 57m on the ground and yet conceded 14 cheap points.

That has to be a slight worry.

2-0 (10pts, 1st in Pool D)

With 13 tries, they trail only Australia on this count. But there seems to be more method and less madness to Ireland's approach at this tournament. It's tempting to lay this all at the door of new Zealand coach Joe Schmidt, so we will. A largely second-string team did enough against Romania to suggest the men in green will not suffer too much if they lose a few players. The same cannot be said for other squads. One thing they need to improve is the lineout, where they rank in the bottom five.

2-0 (9pts, 1st in Pool A)

Was anybody enjoying Wales and England knocking seven bells out of each other quite as much as Michael Cheika? Compared to the other group heavyweights, they have enjoyed an armchair ride into the tournament, meeting a Fiji side off short rest and then facing the tournament's worst side in Uruguay. So this is hardly indicative of what me might see later, but Australia's three three-quarters and fullback made a combined 424m between them against the South Americans.

2-0 (9pts, 2nd in Pool D)

Like Ireland, they ran the bench against Romania and came away with a functional, relatively stress-free victory. The Celts and the Gauls meet in the penultimate match of pool play, in Cardiff on October 12 (NZT). With Italy being so poor, there is a sense that this pool is providing nothing but a few strenuously opposed training sessions until that big date.

1-1 (5pts, 2nd in Pool C)

Los Pumas didn't have the luxury of being able to run out their second-stringers against Georgia at Gloucester, but they have a big break now until they meet Tonga at Leicester. The way Pool C was set up - with the two big guns meeting first up and three relatively weak sides - meant squad dynamics were always going to be difficult to manage. At this early stage, however, Argentina look well set up for this sort of tournament.

2-0 (10pts, 1st in Pool B)

I wrote last week that I thought Scotland would top their pool, which elicited this entirely reasonable response from reader Jim Currie: "Not sure how you came to that conclusion, Dylan. Unless you think Scotland will beat [South Africa]. Obviously if [South Africa] beat the Scots and everyone else, as they probably will, the Japanese victory, while great in an emotional sense for everyone but the Boks, won't mean much." That's the strange thing, I'm actually starting to believe in Scotland. It's a disease that's catching.

1-1 (7pts, 2nd in Pool B)

I'm not getting sucked into thinking that a thumping victory over a desperately average Samoa side represents a miracle cure for the ills of Springbok rugby, but it does make me convinced they'll escape Pool B despite the Nippon embarrassment. Still, a better side than Samoa will make those 15 penalties conceded and 11 turnovers lost count. The broken jaw suffered by Jean de Villiers, while a sad way for a classy warrior to leave the game, will not hurt the campaign.

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Australia New Zealand Rugby
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