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The Kangaroos are set to enter next year’s World Cup as the fourth ranked team behind New Zealand, England and Tonga, according to the latest International Rugby League rankings.

New Zealand remain in first spot but England and Tonga have overtaken the 2017 World Cup winners in the IRL men’s rankings announced on Friday, as Australia has won just two of their four Tests since the tournament final.

The Jillaroos are No.1 in the IRL women’s rankings and will head to England at the end of next season as World Cup favourites, while the Wheelaroos are ranked No.4.

IRL chairman Troy Grant admitted that the rankings were “skewed” by the fact that some nations have played Tests since the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, while others haven’t.

The Kangaroos last Test was a 16-12 loss to Tonga at the end of the 2019 season, while they suffered a 26-24 defeat by New Zealand in 2018.

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Australia beat Tonga 34-16 in 2018 and New Zealand 26-4 in 2019.

After setting the 2017 World Cup alight when they upset the Kiwis and were eliminated in controversial circumstances by England, Tonga have since beaten Great Britain and the Kangaroos to climb to third spot.

Papua New Guinea is ranked No.5, Fiji No.6 and Samoa No.8, behind France. 

The Kangaroos were ranked No.2 when the previous IRL men’s rankings were released at the end of the 2019 season but have been leapfrogged by England and Tonga as greater weighting is given to more recent results.

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A result in the previous two years is weighted double that of a Test three years ago and four times a fixture from four years ago.

Only games in the previous four seasons are considered but as only one fixture was played in 2020 due to COVID-19, results from the 2017 World Cup are still active in the calculations – but with the minimum weighting applied.

England’s 30-10 Test defeat of France in Perpignan last month is therefore given greater weighting than 2017 World Cup matches.

There were 12 men’s senior international matches played this year, involving 15 different nations.

In the wheelchair game, eight fixtures were played involving five nations while there were three women’s Tests involving England, France, Wales and Ireland.

Australia and New Zealand retain their positions as the No.1 and No.2 women’s teams but England have closed the gap on the Jillaroos and Kiwi Ferns in calculations for the IRL rankings after beating France and Wales.

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The big winners in the men’s rankings are Serbia, who have risen six places to ninth spot after winning all four of their international matches in 2021.

“On the one hand it is good to have enough fixtures played in 2021 to run the world rankings, on the other hand, there is some volatility in some of the placings due to the skewed nature of who was able to play fixtures and who wasn’t,” Grant said.

“The over-riding principle of any sport’s ranking system is to see endeavours on the field reflected on the ladder and that is certainly evident here.

“We all hope and expect that during 2022 and into the World Cup, we will see a significantly greater number of international matches played, and this will, in turn, be reflected back in the world rankings.

“Finally, I would like to congratulate all those nations who were able to play games and thank them for their efforts.”

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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