For the first time in a decade, a new teams sit at the top of the World Rugby men's rankings.

After a 13-6 win over England this morning (NZ time), Wales have taken over in the No1 spot for the first time in the nation's history.

Wales become just the fourth team to ever hold the top ranking in the sport since the rankings were introduced in 2003, joining New Zealand, England and South Africa.

A loss to the Wallabies in Perth last weekend opened the door for Wales to take over the top spot. But their loss to England meant in this week's reverse fixture both England and Wales could have taken over the top spot.

Wales are now the top ranked team in the world. Photo / Getty Images
Wales are now the top ranked team in the world. Photo / Getty Images

Despite the All Blacks handing the Wallabies a 36-0 loss in the second Bledisloe Cup test last night, Wales simply had to beat England to take over at the top, while England needed at least a 16 point win.

Just six days after being thrashed by England 33-19 at Twickenham, Wales dominated the return match. They scored the only try to deservedly win the first half 10-0, and produced a typically strong defensive effort in Cardiff to hold out England in the second.

The result meant that for the first time since November 2009, the All Blacks are not the No1 team in the world. The New Zealand side only fall back on spot into second place.

England too easily neutered in attack and Wales fallible at the scrum - New Zealand will sleep easy in their beds

By Mick Cleary of the Telegraph

They will be sleeping easy in their beds in New Zealand, despite Wales rising to No 1 in the world rankings with this scrappy, gutsy win; the imperious nature of the All Blacks victory over the Wallabies earlier in the day in stark contrast to the torpid, fractured nature of this contest.

The All Blacks were sharp, decisive and potent, qualities invariably absent here. Wales, at least, preserved their 11-match winning streak at home but will recognise that, even though their defensive zeal was admirable, they are fallible in the scrum and have yet to hit their straps. Fly-half Dan Biggar at least had the satisfaction of a spirited riposte to criticism of his ability to lead the side into the World Cup with a performance that was sparky and tricky in equal measure.

England, though, will be dismayed at their inability to build on last weekend's hearty victory. They had enough in their ranks to have closed out a heartening back-to-back victory over the Grand Slam champions but lacked subtlety and punch. They were too easily neutered in attack, thwarted also twice in their driving maul in the closing stages as they piled forward in search of late salvation.

English muscle at close quarters was wan by its normal standards. The attack, too, spluttered and failed to make any significant inroads as indicated by the damning statistic that they failed to score a point in the first half of a Test match for the first time in eight years.


There is a caveat that is always in play and that is that these are warm-up games and teams will not show their full hand. That is the context for so much across these weeks. There was an encouraging display again from Anthony Watson who was a late call-up for Bath teammate Ruaridh McConnochie.

There was a World Cup identity to shape for England and World Cup places to cement, as well as reputations to repair, for Wales. England had been snappy and feisty is so many aspects last weekend even though they had fielded an under-strength side. With their squad already named it was imperative for them to play with the same tempo and sharpness and perhaps because there was more clout and heft in Wales' game, England only managed to show glimpses of what they could offer, a run and off-load from Ellis Genge here, a drive across the gain-line from Piers Francis there, but they were unable to generate the momentum they achieved six days ago. There were too many little errors as well with a much sterner and fiercer opposition facing then.

There are few definite conclusions to reach at this stage of the build-up process but there is one thing of which we can all be sure, that Biggar is the sort of bristling scrapper that every team needs. The 29 year-old is not to everyone's taste in Wales, too one-dimensional, lacks flair, the sort of criticisms that have been lobbed the way of all those who do not manage to play with the majesty and impishness of many of those who have worn the No 10 shirt for Wales down the years. Gareth Anscombe was crocked last week against England and Biggar is now the man.

The Northampton fly-half stood firm. He shrugged off all those midweek complaints with a performance that was full of energy, cleverness and bravery, rising beyond his natural height to claim so many balls in the air. Biggar may not be the biggest but the tape measure tells you nothing of a man's heart.

He was alert, too, to every possibility, at no time more so than when Watson was sent to the sin-bin for what was deemed a deliberate knock-on as he closed in on Hadleigh Parkes in the 32nd minute to prevent the ball being shipped on to men outside.

Even before the Bath wing had trotted to the sideline, Biggar spotted that Joe Cokanasiga was missing down the left flank and kicked wide to Josh Adams. Wales swarmed forward and on the recycle Biggar again spotted an opportunity on the left and his kick found George North who jogged over for his 38th international try.

It was slick and inventive. However, there was a question mark as to whether it should have been allowed given that Watson had not left the field of play and captain George Ford had been speaking to referee, Pascal Gauzere. Whatever, England need to be more alert.

Biggar had earlier kicked a penalty and it was all enough to send Wales down the tunnel at half-time with a 10-0 lead, the first time since the 2011 World Cup quarter-final against France that England had failed to score a point in the first half, an 88-match stretch. That speaks of Welsh grit and defiance as well as of English sloppiness.

Wales were far more assured, stripping their game back to basics in the lineout in particular where flanker Aaron Wainwright was effectively the sole target. It worked. It was a loss when Wainwright was forced to retire at the start of the second half with a thigh problem. The scrum, though, was an area of grave concern. Penalty after penalty was conceded and Wales urgently need to find greater stability there. England, for their part, ought to have been able to make use of the platform.

There was little smooth fluency in the play, too many pile-ups and stoppages. Ford managed to get England onto the scoreboard with a couple of penalties to close the gap to four points. They were a few glimmers as Itoje made one big bust and then Jamie George went clear down the right flank.

Wales, though, had the measure of it all. Leigh Halfpenny, who had trained hard in the morning then found himself called up during the warm-up after Liam Williams reported a tight hamstring, managed to bang over a penalty in the 76th minute to seal the deal.

More important matters lie ahead.