After England became the first northern hemisphere team to win the Rugby World Cup in 2003 thanks to Jonny Wilkinson's heroics, the team was flying high
, comfortably on top of the World Rankings in November of that year. In fact, 2003 was the year the World Rugby Rankings
came into existence and England was followed by the All Blacks and Australia in the top-three.
The quality gap betwee the northern and southern hemisphere has narrowed dramatically but in 2007, South Africa still beat England 15-6 in the Rugby World Cup Final. Before that tournament kicked off, New Zealand was comfortably on top of the world rankings, followed by Australia, France, South Africa and Ireland. Fast forward to September 2019 and those rankings certainly look a bit different after teams from the north collected more than a few scalps in the Autumn Internationals. The most eye-catching was certainly Ireland's win over New Zealand
on Saturday night with Jacob Stockdale scoring a try in the 48th minute to cap a historic and memorable night in Dublin.
That, together with recent consecutive victories over Wales, have helped lift Ireland into first place in the rankings ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup kicking off in Japan next week. New Zealand are in second place, followed by England.
The current rankings show that the All Blacks are still in first place with Ireland close behind in second. Two other northern hemisphere teams - Wales and England - are in the top-five. This year, northern hemisphere teams will be making the trip to Asia with a sense of expectation rather than hope.