Zombie rankings needing a revision

Saturday’s test match between Colombia and Trinidad demonstrated a problem with the current ranking system.

Published by John Birch, June 17, 2024

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Zombie rankings needing a revision

The women’s test world rankings are something that we at Scrumqueens are quietly proud of, because they came about following several years of our campaigning, and were calculated mainly based on data that we supplied (as we had the only complete list of women’s test matches at that time).

They have been in place for some years now, and are becoming more and more important for World Rugby and individual unions as they increasingly used in competitions. For example, the Netherlands chance to compete for a place in WXV3 this years was entirely due to their ranking position.

But the rankings still have their problems, most clearly demonstrated this weekend when Colombia , ranked 28, took on Trinidad, ranked higher at 26, and beat them 96-0.

On the face of it this looks a surprising result for teams so closely ranked, until you realise that Colombia have played regular test matches in recent years, while Trinidad hadn't played a test match since 2011.

The Trinidad ranking was therefore totally inaccurate and meaningless. No-one involved in their last test in 2011 was likely to have been involved in this weekend’s test – it was a totally different team with absolutely no experience of test rugby. They might as well have been treated as a new team.

And Trinidad are not alone. 14 out of the 65 teams listed in the latest world rankings have not played a test match for over a decade, including Denmark (34th) who have not played for 20 years, Bosnia (48th) who have not played for 19 years, and Luxembourg and Serbia (60th and 62nd) who have not played since 2007.

Yet, despite effectively not having a team, World Rugby rank Denmark above nations such as Finland and Zambia, while Bosnia’s non-existent team is apparently “stronger” than India, Zimbabwe and Brazil!

Allowing these zombie rankings to remain even creates a disincentive to play as only by playing does a country put its ranking at risk!

We understand that geography, funding and the reality of the amateur status of many women’s rugby teams means that they cannot always organise test matches every year, but even so any system that effectively rewards national unions for doing nothing cannot be defended.

What can be done?

The solution is surely fairly simple. Either teams could be removed or suspended from the rankings if they had not played for a given period (perhaps four years, the period between World Cups) or their points could be reduced by – say – 10% for each year of inactivity (to see what difference this makes, see the revised ranking at the end of this article).

It is hard to say which would be most effective in getting unions to revive their dormant test teams – a slow slide down the rankings, or the risk of sudden elimination – but either would be better than pretending that Norway have an active test team, or that they would be favourites to beat Czechia in a test match.

Zombie test rankings

Current Rank Country Last test Years ago
34 Denmark 2004 20
48 Bosnia & Herzegovina 2005 19
60 Luxembourg 2007 17
62 Serbia 2007 17
39 Guyana 2008 16
42 Romania 2008 16
45 Norway 2009 15
63 Barbados 2009 15
64 St Vincent and the Grenadines 2009 15
65 Bahamas 2010 14
36 Jamaica 2011 13
55 Uzbekistan 2011 13
57 Cayman Islands 2011 13
52 Thailand 2012 12
58 Botswana 2017 7
22 China 2019 5
37 Singapore 2019 5
49 India 2019 5
59 Philippines 2019 5

A revised ranking

(Deducting 10% of points for each year of inactivity)

Revised ranking Current ranking Team Revised points
1 1 England 96.90
2 2 Canada 89.13
3 3 New Zealand 88.96
4 4 France 87.27
5 5 Australia 78.36
6 6 Scotland 75.99
7 7 United States 74.57
8 8 Wales 74.28
9 9 Italy 74.26
10 10 Ireland 73.53
11 11 Japan 69.98
12 12 South Africa 65.17
13 13 Spain 65.15
14 15 Fiji 59.43
15 16 Netherlands 58.98
16 17 Hong Kong 58.76
17 18 Samoa 58.48
18 19 Kazakhstan 55.23
19 20 Sweden 52.72
20 21 Germany 50.42
21 14 Russia 49.49
22 23 Kenya 48.10
23 24 Portugal 47.12
24 25 Madagascar 46.03
25 26 Colombia 45.73
26 28 Belgium 45.08
27 29 Tonga 43.53
28 32 Andorra 40.89
29 33 Cameroon 40.70
30 38 Zambia 39.95
31 47 Bulgaria 38.06
32 30 Tunisia 37.85
33 50 Zimbabwe 37.04
34 31 Croatia 36.95
35 35 Finland 36.61
36 54 Papua New Guinea 35.41
37 41 Uganda 35.06
38 44 Latvia 34.99
39 46 Czechia 34.70
40 51 Brazil 33.22
41 40 Senegal 31.72
42 43 Cote D'Ivoire 31.53
43 22 China 29.13
44 53 Switzerland 28.72
45 56 Burkina Faso 28.61
46 61 Namibia 26.03
47 37 Singapore 23.66
48 49 India 22.20
49 59 Philippines 19.58
50 58 Botswana 15.93
51 27 Trinidad & Tobago 14.15
52 36 Jamaica 10.30
53 52 Thailand 10.27
54 55 Uzbekistan 9.00
55 57 Cayman Islands 8.88
56 45 Norway 8.00
57 39 Guyana 7.34
58 42 Romania 7.22
59 65 Bahamas 6.33
60 63 Barbados 6.19
61 64 St Vincent and the Grenadines 5.91
62 60 Luxembourg 5.48
63 62 Serbia 5.30
64 48 Bosnia & Herzegovina 5.13
65 34 Denmark 4.95

 

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