Heading into the final round of the Six Nations Argentina remains ranked 9th in the world. With this coming weekend’s matches being the final games before the draw is made Los Pumas would appear to have their fate sealed. Can Argentina Avoid a Pool of Death for RWC 2019?
The answer is yes but it is an extremely remote possibility.
The draw for Japan 2019 is to take place on May 10. With Los Pumas not playing until June the South Americans have had no opportunity to improve their ranking this year. The leading team from the Americas finished 2016 poorly. Away defeats at the hands of Wales, Scotland and England put them in the position they remain today – 9th in the world.
Rankings are used to seed teams for Rugby World Cups. The system divides the twelve automatic qualified teams from Rugby World Cup 2015 into three categories. Titled Band A, Band B and Band C they are aimed at producing as fair as possible a system for the following World Cup.
The system is not without flaws. Indeed Wales were 9th when the draw for Rugby World Cup 2015 was made. Shortly thereafter the western British side found themselves back in the world’s top 8 and they have remained there since. Notwithstanding they were pooled with both Australia and England in 2015.
For 2019 Argentina face an identical fate. In all likelihood Los Pumas will improve on their ranking to be higher before the start of the 2017 Rugby Championship. The same flaw from 2015 will be raised – the draw is made far too early. For 2015 it was based on the rankings in December 2012. For 2019 it has been pushed back six months, arguably an insufficient amount. December 2018 would be a more accurate opportunity.
Two of this weekend’s Six Nations matches should be watched with interest from the Americas. Depending on the results of Scotland vs Italy and France vs Wales there is a chance of a miracle for Argentina.
Should Italy defeat Scotland y more than 15 points then Scotland would fall below Argentina to be 9th in the world. As unlikely as this may appear given current performances of both sides it is a possibility. In 2015 Italy defeated Scotland 22-19 in Edinburgh. Such a result again would be insufficient for Argentina. However a repeat of the 37-17 win by the Italians in Scotland in 2007 would see Argentina rise into Band B.
In Paris the 8th ranked France will play host to the 6th ranked Wales this weekend. A Welsh win by more than 15 points would see Argentina rise to 8th. Should this eventuate then France would fall into Band C.