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Serbia has risen six places to ninth spot in the latest International Rugby League Men’s World Rankings. This is thanks to the fact that they have been able to play four senior international matches in 2021, winning all of them. The other big winners, in a year disrupted by COVID-19, were Netherlands who rose 11 places to 14th position, thanks to two wins in 2021 added to their victory in the sole senior international match played in 2020. Also, thanks to an excellent victory over Russia in the Euro B Championship. Ukraine leapt up 14 places to 25th place. Philippines have made their first appearance in the world rankings following victory over Brazil in June. They are joined by Bosnia-Herzegovina who played Serbia. These were their first senior international matches since becoming members of IRL.

In the women’s rankings, Wales and Ireland recorded their first qualifying results and enter at numbers 13 and 14 respectively, which has consequently dropped Brazil, Greece and Lebanon who have not been able to play games. Australia and New Zealand retain their positions at one and two, however England were able to play two senior international matches and have closed the gap on the top two.

The wheelchair calendar featured the top two playing and two victories by France over England, has cemented their position as world number 1. Ireland and Scotland have both taken advantage of their ability to play two sets of fixtures in 2021 to move up to fifth and sixth respectively.

Despite the problems, 12 men’s senior international fixtures were possible this year, involving 15 different nations. In the wheelchair game, 8 fixtures were played involving 5 nations and in the women’s game, just three fixtures were played involving four nations.

The IRL World Rankings are based only upon the results of senior international matches with the following criteria:

· The relative ranking of the opponent i.e., the higher the ranking of the opponent the greater the weighting of the result.

· The competition i.e., games in official competition are weighted higher than bi-lateral arranged games. Rugby League World Cup games carry the greatest weighting.

· More recent games are weighted more than older games and only games in the previous four seasons are considered.

Given that only one senior international match was possible in 2020, for the purposes of the calculation, 2020 has been discounted, which means that results from Rugby League World Cup 2017 are still active in the calculations although with the minimum weighting applied.

IRL Chair, Troy Grant commented, “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. 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.”

Men’s: (Top 20)

01. New Zealand (=)
02. England (+1)
03. Tonga (+1)
04. Australia (-2)
05. PNG (+1)
06. Fiji (-1)
07. France (+1)
08. Samoa (-1)
09. Serbia (+6)
10. Greece (+1)
11. Scotland (-2)
12. Ireland (=)
13. Lebanon (-3)
14. Netherlands (+11)
15. Malta (+1)
16. Italy (-3)
17. Czech Republic (+5)
18. Jamaica (+2)
19. Turkey (+5)
20. Norway (-3)

01. Australia (=)
02. New Zealand (=)
03. England (=)
04. PNG (=)
05. France (+1)
06. Canada (-1)
07. Serbia (+2)
08. Italy (=)
09. Fiji (+1)
10. Turkey (-1)
11. Samoa (-1)
12. Cook Islands (-5)
13. Wales (New)
14. Ireland (New)
15. Brasil (-2)
16. Greece (-2)
17. Lebanon (-2)

01. France (=)
02. England (=)
03. Wales (=)
04. Australia (=)
05. Scotland (+1)
06. Ireland (+2)
07. Italy (-2)
08. Spain (-1)