Wednesday, February 17, 2010

England slip to eighth in world rankings

When the International Rugby Board started its world rankings England were the best team in the world. Six years on, they stand in eighth position, their lowest ever, proof of their inexorable decline since their now team manager, Martin Johnson, lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy in 2003.

Successive away defeats to Wales and Ireland have dragged England down from sixth at the start of the Six Nations to eighth in the latest rankings table, which was released today. Johnson has come under fire, with England winning only two of his seven matches in charge, against the Pacific Islanders and Italy, but the decay set in long before his arrival.

It could get worse. England will drop to ninth if they fail to win their last two Six Nations matches, against France and Scotland at Twickenham, but they are also only a couple of big victories away from fourth-placed Argentina. While the top three teams – New Zealand, South Africa and Australia – are comfortably ahead of the chasing pack, little separates the Pumas from the English.

 Wales have slipped from fourth to fifth after losing to France last Friday night while Les Bleus have leapfrogged England. Ireland remain in fifth, but a first grand slam since 1948 would take them above Wales.

 England have won only 50% of their Six Nations matches since winning the World Cup six years ago. Only three of their last 12 away matches in the championship have ended in victory, two of them in Rome, while their record against the major southern hemisphere nations since 2003 is dire.

 England have won none of their seven Tests against the All Blacks in the past six years, two out of eight against South Africa and two in seven against Australia, a total of four wins in 22 Tests with only one coming since the beginning of 2007.

 In contrast, England won 12 consecutive matches against the three southern hemisphere heavyweights between 2000 and 2003, culminating in the victory over Australia in the World Cup final in Sydney, a success that followed a Six Nations grand slam. In a period of nine months that year, they defeated every one of the other nations in the top 10 of the world rankings, but their fall since then leaves them unsure of when their next victory will be.

Scotland V England Hospitality

Six Nations Hospitality

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