Mate Ma’a Tonga’s coach Kristian Woolf and his players are unhappy with their rise to No.2 in the IRL World Ranking – they are aiming to win the World Cup in England at the end of the season.
The IRL rankings have been updated after the recent round of mid-year tests and Tonga have overtaken England in second place behind New Zealand, while Kiwi Ferns close in on Jillaroos and Wheelaroos are ranked seventh.
The Kangaroos remain fourth as they haven’t played since losing 16-12 to Tonga in 2019, and as Woolf’s side were beaten 26-6 by the Kiwis in June, they upset Great Britain. Britain and Australia in their two previous tests.
Match Summary: Tonga Invitational – Australia
With a number of big names unavailable for the mid-year test, Tonga beat nine debutants against the Kiwis and Woolf said his squad’s depth will keep them in good stead for the World Cup.
“Some of these young guys have put their hands up to say they’re going to be involved in a 24-man squad at the World Cup,” Woolf told RLWC2021.
“We’re going to be able to add real experience, some really big names and guys who’ve been there and done it before and know what international rugby league is, and who will be even stronger once that we will arrive at the World Cup.
“The potential we have in this team is really exciting and when we bring the Tongan players together, they always connect very quickly and very easily, and that’s one of the great things about their involvement.
“If they come to this camp fresh, healthy and confident after their NRL or Super League seasons and connect like they have in the past, we’re going to give ourselves a very good chance.”
Match Summary: Kiwis vs. Mate Ma’a Tonga
Among the players who missed the sold-out test at Mt Smart Stadium were Daniel Tupou and Siosifa Talakai, who were on Origin duty for NSW in Perth but declared their allegiance to Tonga for the World Cup.
Will Hopoate, Konrad Hurrell, Agnatius Paasi, Tevita Pangai Jnr, David Fifita, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Tesi Niu, Tui Lolohea and Manu Ma’u are other players who could make Tonga’s World Cup squad. world.
“I thought the boys were still doing very well considering Tonga haven’t played since 2019,” Tupou told NRL.com.
“There is a generation that had the opportunity to play for Tonga for the first time, so it’s about building and getting stronger for the World Cup.
“We have big names who can play for Tonga at the World Cup, and there are good signs.
“Obviously Australia will do everything they can to try to get back to the top so they’re just taking our opportunity when we can. We have to take advantage of the moment because I know all the other countries will try to set us back.
“It’s a good sign for us that we are above Australia and England. [in the rankings] right now, but we have to keep building from here.”
In the women’s standings, little now separates Australia, New Zealand and England after the Kiwi Ferns’ recent wins over Tonga and England’s loss to France.
Depending on the World Cup results, New Zealand could finish 2022 as the No. 1 ranked men’s and women’s nation for the first time.
England also closed the gap in the wheelchair standings after their recent win over France.
With the recent return of international rugby league to the southern hemisphere for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, Samoa and the Cook Islands have also moved up the men’s rankings, while Papua New Guinea and Fiji maintained their ranking.
Match Summary: Kiwis vs. Mate Ma’a Tonga
Wales are the big performer among northern hemisphere nations, climbing seven places from 23rd to 16th in the men’s rankings after their first test since 2019, while Serbia are now ranked eighth after winning the championships. Europe B last year.
Wales also moved up six places from 13th to 7th in the women’s rankings and remain the third ranked wheelchair team, behind France and England.
“Wales has the potential to be the Tonga of the northern hemisphere,” said IRL chairman Troy Grant.
“It’s great to have seen many nations return to international action recently and what the latest IRL World Rankings show is that nations that are active can move up the ranks.
“The rankings also suggest that you cannot rest on your laurels of past performances and that it is important to be active, especially ahead of the World Cup.
“With the Kiwis showing they will be tough to beat, Tonga’s rise continuing and Samoa and Papua New Guinea performing in the Pacific Tests, the Men’s World Cup is wide open.
“Recent results suggest the Women’s and Wheelchair World Cups will also be hotly contested, and we are all delighted with the continued growth of international rugby league.”
Match Summary: Papua New Guinea v Fiji
The IRL World Ranking is determined by the following criteria:
- Teams receive ranking points each time they play a sanctioned international match;
- Result and margin: the greater the victory, the more points the winning team receives and the fewer points are awarded to the loser;
- Opponent Strength: The higher the opponent’s rating, the greater the weighting of the result.
- Importance of the match: matches in official competition are weighted more than bilateral match-fixing. Rugby World Cup matches have the highest weighting, and;
- Newer games are weighted more than older games and only games since the 2017 World Cup are considered.
Leaderboards reward teams that are active and winning games.
The Kiwis improved their position as the No. 1 ranked team, ahead of reigning world champions Tonga, England and Australia, who fell to fourth in the previous rankings and will enter the World Cup with their last test being a 16-12 loss to Tonga in 2019.
Pacific powers Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Samoa are next, followed by Serbia in eighth, with the European nation playing four internationals in 2021 and winning all of them.
Match summary: Samoa – Cook Islands
France moved from seventh to ninth position and Scotland from 11th to 15th – just ahead of 16th-placed Wales, who moved up from 23rd.
Other big drivers include Malta (up from 15th to 10th), Germany (29th to 25th), South Africa (38th to 30th) and Chile (43rd to 32nd) after recent testing activity.
The Jillaroos remain the highest-ranked women’s team – but only because the Kiwi Ferns and England have played in recent Tests, while none of Australia’s three national teams have been in action since 2019.
The Kiwi Ferns beat Tonga 50-12 in front of a record crowd for a women’s international of 18,369 in last month’s doubles match at Mt Smart Stadium, while England beat France 36-10 at Warrington.
Tonga and USA made their first appearance in the IRL Women’s World Rankings after recent international matches, bringing the number of active women’s teams to 20.
Match Highlights: Kiwi Ferns – Mate Ma’a Tonga Women
Tonga are ranked 10th after the test against the Kiwi Ferns, while the USA Redtails are five places below after their international debut against Canada in April.
Wales moved from 13th to seventh after rebounding from a 32-6 loss to England in June to beat Italy 60-0.
France are still the No.1 ranked wheelchair team but England and Wales are closing the gap after recent results.
England beat France 62-48 in June, while Wales cruised to a 64-22 victory over Ireland and beat Scotland 116-6.
Ireland have also beaten Scotland twice this year to claim fourth place from Australia, who fell to seventh place as their last test was a loss to England in October 2019.
The Wheelaroos are the only Southern Hemisphere-based team to take part in the season-ending World Cup and have therefore had few opportunities to play against international opponents.
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