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England’s troubled build-up to the World Cup is reflected in their descent to eighth in the last global rankings to be published before the tournament begins.
World Rugby has confirmed that Steve Borthwick’s side have fallen two places from sixth following their 30-22 defeat by Fiji on Saturday – registering their joint lowest position in the standings’ 20-year history.
Fiji have climbed from ninth to seventh on the back of their stunning victory at Twickenham while Argentina – England’s main pool rivals in France – are up one place to sixth.
Ireland top the rankings ahead of second-placed South Africa with the two heavyweights’ presence in Pool B alongside fifth-placed Scotland highlighting the most lop-sided draw in the competition’s history.
England are in the easiest group but given their recent run of five defeats in six Tests, their assignments against 12th-placed Samoa and 14th-placed Japan now look like banana skins.
Apart from their form on the field, which is underpinned by a leaky defence, they have suffered from a series of suspensions and injuries that have disrupted their build-up.
While the rankings change after every round of Tests matches, England’s lowly position is symbolic of how far they have fallen and mirrors expectations over how they will perform at the World Cup.
Borthwick himself explained the importance of the rankings heading into the tournament when he announced his 33-man squad on August 7.
“If you could lay it out and say to me ‘what would you want to be right now?’, I’d use (former England coach) Clive Woodward’s words that you want to be the best team in the world,” Borthwick said.
“Ranked number one, the favourites. That’s what Ireland have right now. Why? Because you want to make sure you’re the best team. Now that’s not our situation, our situation is different.”
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