The second round of the Autumn Internationals take place tomorrow and some tasty matches await us. Last week, I used World Rugby’s Rankings to predict who will win and to set expectations for each nation for the whole series and my predictions got off to a good start with 5 out of the 6 matches correctly called. This performance is consistent with a similar set of predictions I made for the 2017 6 Nations where I correctly called 12 out of 15 games.
My prediction model is explained in one of my 6 Nations post but World Rugby’s goal is that rankings can be used as a predictive tool. The idea is to take each team’s current ranking and add 3 points to teams playing at home. Whoever has the higher ranking is then expected to win but clearly the closer the rankings, the closer the game is expected to be. The current World Rugby rankings as of 16th November 2017 is shown to the right along with their ranking points and the change (if any) from last week New Zealand are still number 1 with England 3 points behind them. Bear in mind that World Rugby add 3 points to a home team when predicting a match so this indicates that if England were to play New Zealand at Twickenham this month, it would be too close to call. Unfortunately, rugby fans have to wait until November next year to see that match by which time the rankings could have changed.
Italy’s win over Fiji last week has resulted in the largest change in ranking points with Italy up 2 and Fiji down 2. Ireland’s win over South Africa also improved their ranking points as did Australia with their win over Wales. Scotland, New Zealand and England however saw no change in ranking points despite winning their games.
The table below shows the results of week 1 and predictions for weeks 2, 3 & 4. The ranking points are shown in the Pts columns next to each nation and the difference in rankings is represented by the horizontal bars in the middle which point to the stronger team. These teams are then listed in the last column as the predicted winners. For week 1, the only error was in predicting that Fiji would beat Italy and this error is highlighted by the black background for the horizontal bars in between the two teams. I noticed that for this game the ranking gap was less than 6 points and in the 2017 6 Nations, all 3 errors (out of 15 games in total) came when the ranking gap was less than 6 points. So if I combine last week with the 6 Nations, out of 12 games where the ranking gap was less than 6 points, I have been right in 8 of them whereas all 9 games with a ranking gap of more than 6 points have been correctly called.
With this in mind, it looks like we have 3 close matches coming up in week 2. Both France V South Africa and Italy V Argentina are finely balanced with nothing between the teams. The other close match is England V Australia where the form book favours England with 4 straight wins in their last 4 meetings but the rankings suggest it will be closer than people think. Of the other 3 matches, it is worth noting that the gap between Ireland and Fiji is the same as that between Wales & Georgia which is a mark of the progress that Georgia have made. Finally, on paper, it looks like Scotland should provide a sterner test for New Zealand compared what France put up last week.
World Rugby update their rankings after every round of matches so whilst I can use the current rankings to predict the matches this weekend, I am on shaky grounds using them to predict the 3rd & 4th round of matches. I have done so in the table mainly to set expectations.