There are many ranking systems for international rugby on the net. Most are computer driven and all do a good job.

I have been thinking of a more old-fashioned system recently. What happened to the tennis ladder system? You 'knock them off and take their place' system.

Yes it has many flaws but I couldn't resist the temptation to see how it would work.

Firstly I updated my international lists since 01.01.1997. I decided to start from the year I began seriously collecting/collating test results.

Then I began a ladder based on these principles.

  1. As a nation played for the first time so they joined the ladder.
  2. If they defeated a team above them on the ladder so they took their place, moving the defeated team one below them. All other teams would move down the ladder accordingly.
  3. If a team drew with a team above them they slipped into place one behind them. All other teams would move down the ladder accordingly.
  4. Wins by default count. If you don't turn up you lose!
  5. New losing teams join the bottom of the ladder.
  6. Only full international team results apply. No 'A', 'B', 'XV', Emerging, Developing, Age group teams count. I also couldn't find a place for the British Isles, which saddened me.
  7. Does not include newly discovered or amended results after 01.01.1997.
  8. Each year's table ends 31 December.

I had great fun doing this, with a serious tongue-in-check I will add. I got some surprises and some glitches that will provide a challenge to some nations below the top 20.

  1. New Zealand never reached No.1 at the end of any year. Now, as a Kiwi, that really shook me. But you try it. For some reason they just dipped out. At the moment they hold 8th place, which will probably see my passport cancelled and entry rights back into Aotearoa blocked!
  2. Nations that only play within their geographical region (meaning most below ranking 20th) are disadvantaged. Most European teams, some Asian and African teams like-wise. You cannot advance unless you defeat a team above you on the ladder and for some that might mean a visit to play a team in another continent.
  3. The final match in a series, e.g. Tri-Nations, 6-Nations, World Cup will count more than the others, which at times appears unfair.

Have a look at the past years ladders and take a look for yourself. You will find them in the links under 'Rankings'. You can also go to the yearly lists of results starting at 1997.

Gary Carbines

June 2003