Rugby World Cup 2019 Power Rankings: Ireland big movers after opening round

OPINION: Over recent weeks, rugby fans could only shake their heads at the confounding nature of World Rugby rankings.

The All Blacks smash Australia in perhaps their most complete performance for some time, but they lose top spot to Wales for the first time in a decade.

Then Wales fall away, but two weeks after they're absolutely smashed by England, Ireland rise to the top with victory over the Welsh.

Then the Irish dismantle Scotland in their Rugby World Cup opener, but that's not enough to keep New Zealand from regaining their world supremacy.

That's what you get when your ranking system is based purely on points and not performance.

Our list is more subjective, but hopefully provides a truer indication of form - here's how we saw the opening week of World Cup play. 

1. New Zealand

Last week: First

This week: Beat South Africa 23-13

Perhaps a flattering scoreline, considering they were totally outplayed for the opening 20 minutes, but produced 5-10 minutes of brilliance to swing the match their way.

The two-time defending champions have become adept at seizing opportunities when they arise and this was their biggest win over the old enemy since that 57-0 hammering at Albany two years ago.

Next week: v Canada, October 2

2. Ireland

Last week: Fourth

This week: Beat Scotland 27-3

The world No.1 team certainly lived up to their ranking (but somehow lost it), with a comprehensive win over worthy opponents - probably the most complete performance among our top 10 teams.

That result should see them ease into a blockbuster quarter-final against South Africa, as they try to progress past the top eight for the first time. 

Next week: v Japan, September 28

3. South Africa

Last week: Third

This week: Lost to New Zealand 23-13

Shouldn't feel disgraced by a 10-point loss to the reigning champions. They did enough to win this game, but were unable to contain an All Blacks team with their tails up for 10 minutes of the first half - and that's all it took.

They're still one of the teams to beat and could turn that result around later in the tournament.

Next week: v Namibia, September 28

4. England

Last week: Second

This week: Beat Tonga 35-3, beat United States 45-7

Hard to rate them on two steady, rather than dominant displays against second-tier opponents - the easiest opening draw of any contenders - but perhaps the English are building into the tournament and will peak when it matters.

They'll need to raise their intensity against a Pumas side that looked capable first-up.

Next week: v Argentina, October 5

rwc rankings
Photo credit: Newshub.

5. Wales

Last week: Fifth

This week: Beat Georgia 43-14

Clinical performance - ran up a score in the first half and simply sat on it through the second, without giving their second-tier opponents much of a sniff.

Not enough for promotion, not deserving of relegation and more importantly, didn't give away too much for their next outing against the Wallabies.

Next week: v Australia, September 29

6. France

Last week: Seventh

This week: Beat Argentina 23-21

A typical French display, mixing the sublime with the lame, as they let a 17-point halftime lead slip and then found a way to rescue victory down the stretch.

We probably learnt nothing new here - on their day, they can beat anyone and on other days, they can lose to anyone... and some days, they can do both.

That makes them a major threat in knockout stages of the tournament, as any All Blacks fan can confirm.

Next week: v United States, October 2

Virimi Vakatawa eludes the Argentinian defence for France
Virimi Vakatawa eludes the Argentinian defence for France. Photo credit: Photosport

7. Australia

Last week: Sixth

This week: Beat Fiji 39-21

For almost 60 minutes, the Wallabies seemed on the cusp of the tournament's first big upset to the irrepressible Pacific Islanders, but they stayed on task and gradually ground down their opponents.

That result will come as a relief - it virtually assures them a quarter-final spot - and they can now take on the Welsh without absolutely having to win to progress.

Next week: v Wales, September 29

8. Argentina

Last week: Ninth

This week: Lost to France 23-21

Showed they were good enough to make the quarter-finals again, but maybe not from this pool. Looked all at sea for the first half, turned it around in the second and were desperately unlucky to lose with momentum behind them.

They must now upset England to progress, but if they play as well as they sing, that's not out of the question.

Next week: v Tonga, September 28

9. Scotland

Last week: Eighth

This week: Lost to Ireland 27-3

Underwhelming performance that will only embolden those predicting a Japan upset in this pool. Even if they make the quarter-finals now, they will likely face the All Blacks, whom they have never beaten.

Need a big performance against Samoa to win their fans back.

Next week: v Samoa, September 30

Pieter Labuschagne scores for Japan against Russia
Pieter Labuschagne scores for Japan against Russia. Photo credit: Photosport

10. Japan

Last week: 10th

This week: Beat Russia 30-10

Would have dropped out of the top 10, before Fiji's stunning loss to Uruguay.

The hosts looked nervous on opening night against the little-fancied Russians, trailling at halftime and not really inspiring much hope they could topple Ireland or Scotland to advance.

We'll know more after they face Ireland this weekend.

Next week: v Ireland, September 28 

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