Tonga will head to the Rugby League World Cup rated the second-best nation after the latest rankings were released on Friday.
While they fell to top-ranked New Zealand 26-6 in last month’s Pacific Test, Tonga have still surged to their highest-ever ranking, leapfrogging England to the No.2 slot.
The Kiwis remain top of the heap, justifying why many believe their stacked squad deserves the favourites tag ahead of October and November’s World Cup.
England fall to three, while Australia remain planted at four, still yet to play an international fixture since their shock 2019 loss to Tonga.
It remains the worst ranking in the history of Australian men’s rugby league.
The Jillaroos remain the world’s best women’s team, but with New Zealand only narrowly behind, they’re staring down the barrel of both the Kiwis’ men’s and women’s sides ending 2022 with the top ranking.
International Rugby League chair Troy Grant said the new rankings showed active nations were more able to climb the ladder.
“The rankings also suggest that you can’t rest on your laurels from past performances and being active is important, particularly leading into the World Cup,” he said.
“With the Kiwis showing that they will be hard to beat, Tonga’s rise continuing and the performances of Samoa and Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Tests, the Men’s World Cup is wide open.”
Papua New Guinea and Fiji remain fifth and sixth respectively after the Kumuls rolled the Batis last month.
Samoa moved up one slot to seventh after knocking off the Cook Islands, while Serbia (eighth) is now the top European nation after France slumped to ninth.
The rankings don’t affect seeding for the coming World Cup, with the dream Australia-NZ match-up set for the semi-finals should they win their games as expected.
MEN’S TOP TEN WORLD RUGBY LEAGUE RANKINGS
1. New Zealand
5. Papua New Guinea