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World Rugby’s rankings system is a nonsense. Everyone knows that.
Ireland lost 57-15 at Twickenham two weeks ago to cap a largely dreadful 2019, after which they were widely written off as a team past their sell-by date.
They know they are not the best team in the world right now. Their fans know. They are playing nowhere near as well as they were 12 months ago. So their ascension to world No 1 for the first time in their history after this 19-10 win over Wales should be taken with a hefty pinch of salt.
Still, for those trying to read the runes as we gear up for the World Cup in two weeks, it may be worth noting that, since the rankings system was introduced in 2003, and apart from South Africa in 2007, every tournament has been won by the team ranked No 1 in the world heading into the World Cup.
It is not a bad omen.
Whatever, this was certainly a good note on which to head to Japan; Ireland’s best performance since beating the All Blacks last November. Just what the doctor ordered.
Joe Schmidt had brought the big guns back for a match he dared not lose after that Twickenham shellacking. And while they began nervously, Ireland grew more convincing the longer the match wore on, Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan deservedly crossing in the second half after Rob Kearney and Hadleigh Parkes had traded first-half tries. By the finish the crowd at the Aviva Stadium were in full voice and the confidence was seeping ba
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