With just England’s match against Australia to come, we give our take on the true order of world rugby, ranking the Rugby Championship and Six Nations sides as 2016’s rugby calendar nears its end.
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1. New Zealand
The world’s best side are still setting the benchmark as they finished the year with 12 wins from 13. Beauden Barrett, crowned World Rugby Player of the Year, is playing rugby on another level and they are the team to beat in 2017.
They have won every match this year and are hot on the All Blacks’ heels but will have to wait until 2018 before they have a crack at Steve Hansen’s side.
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Ireland became the first side since England in 2003 to beat New Zealand, South Africa and Australia in a calendar year. They are showing marked improvement under Joe Schmidt with a new generation coming through.
They started the year with a dismal series against England but have re-found their form. Eddie Jones believes they are the most improved side in world rugby and will be looking to knock over England on Saturday.
Scotland are perhaps a little under the radar but are playing some wonderful rugby. Stuart Hogg is playing out of his skin and they will be confident of making some noise in the Six Nations.
Wales finished with three wins from four in November and played well against South Africa. But they are a little off their best and have room to grow into ahead of the 2017 championship.
Will Baptiste Serin lead a France revival? Jean Catuffe/Getty Images
France are a confusing bunch. They should have beaten the All Blacks on Saturday but lacked the nous to close the match out and the ruthlessness to turn territory into points but have the ability to beat the world’s best.
Like Les Bleus, it is hard to gauge exactly where the Pumas are. On one hand they are devastating with ball in hand but still have defensive frailties.
Italy finished their November programme with one win from three — including a defeat to Tonga — but will take heart from their win over the Boks as they take a step forward under Conor O’Shea.
10. South Africa
The Springboks endured a miserable 2016 after falling to eight defeats and finished the year with a draw and three losses in their end-of-year programme. SARU has launched a review and changes may follow.
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The rugby power rankings
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