One of the most exciting things about rugby is the fact that it is one of the most global sports. That means that action on the rugby field takes place in all four corners of the world, with the World Cup taking place every four years to see which national side is the best.
Seeing the best nations on the planet collide on the rugby field is always a standout event for fans, as we rarely get to see fixtures between sides from different continents outside of the World Cup. However, it is a perfect measuring stick when it comes to assessing the best teams in world rugby.
What Is More Important: World Rugby Rankings or the World Cup?
World Rugby Rankings is the system used to assess the performances of teams from across the world, with points awarded based on results, with significant match results, such as the Webb Ellis Cup and Six Nations wins, being worth more points.
We will use those official rankings to determine the best 5 rugby national teams in the world.
You can find out more about the top five best world rugby teams in our list below.
What Are The Top 5 Best Rugby Teams In The World?
It has been a period of transition for England in recent years, but they continue to rank among the best world rugby teams. The Red Roses are the most successful nation in the history of the Six Nations, having won the outright championship on 29 occasions and the Grand Slam crown 14 times.
One of the oldest rugby teams in the world, they played their first test match in 1871 against Scotland. The Red Roses are also the only team from the Northern Hemisphere to have won the world championship.
England ensured that they ranked high in the world rankings after reaching the semi-final stage of the 2023 World Cup. The Red Roses nearly defied all odds by eliminating South Africa, but the Springboks inflicted a second defeat on England in as many editions in the closing seconds.
The English are also the current leaders in the women’s world rugby rankings.
France had the prestigious honor of hosting the 2023 World Cup, and expectations were high for the hosts to end their long wait for success on the grandest stage. The French have been one of the most successful nations in European rugby, having won the Six Nations Championship on 26 previous occasions.
They played their first rugby international in 1906 against New Zealand in Paris. They then played sporadically in the Home Nations, before joining the tournament on a full-time basis in 1910. France have also achieved major success on the international world rugby stage at the Olympics, winning the gold medal in 1900, before winning silvers on two occasions in the 1960s.
The French rugby national team have competed in every edition of the Rugby World Cup since 1987, but the closest that they have come to winning it remains their defeats in the world cup finals of 1987, 1999 and 2011. France was heavily favored to win when they hosted in 2023, but they were ultimately eliminated at the quarterfinal stage by South Africa.
3. New Zealand
There are few nations more synonymous with rugby across the world than New Zealand. Therefore, it is little surprise to see the All Blacks rank among the best rugby teams in the world. New Zealand have been crowned world champions on three previous occasions, becoming the first nation to win the Rugby World Cup in three separate editions. The feat also saw them become the first national side to successfully defend the honor.
The All Blacks made their international debut in 1901, and they have competed against 19 nations. Such is their dominance, 12 countries have failed to register a single success against New Zealand.
Since the introduction of ranking points in 2003, no nation has dominated the top of the rankings as much as New Zealand. Furthermore, only England can claim to have won as many consecutive test match victories as the All Blacks.
Despite their rich history and success in friendly and competitive matches, New Zealand were not the favorites in the odds at the 2023 edition of the tournament. Those hopes were lowered further following an opening night defeat against France.
However, the All Blacks roared back into form to beat Ireland and Argentina to set up a final clash with South Africa, which was ultimately won by the Springboks in the Stade de France.
The top-rated European side in the current rankings is Ireland. Ireland have won the Six Nations championship on 15 previous occasions, with their success in 2023 seeing them capture the Grand Slam title for the fourth time.
Despite their success in the Six Nations, Ireland have been cursed in the Rugby World Cup throughout their history. No nation has reached the world cup finals eight more regularly than the Irish without reaching the final. Overall, Ireland have reached the quarterfinal stage on eight previous occasions, including most recently in 2023.
Ireland were among the clear favorites to win the tournament earlier this year, and they played out a thrilling encounter in Paris against New Zealand.
Their hunt for a first world title ultimately came up short against the All Blacks, marking an eighth quarterfinal exit in their history and a fourth in as many editions of the tournament.
1. South Africa
There’s little surprise to see South Africa sitting at the top of the rankings, as they are undeniably one of the most successful rugby teams in the world. The Springboks are the only team to have won the Rugby World Cup on four occasions, and they became just the second nation to successfully defend their title with a battling victory over New Zealand in the 2023 final in Paris.
South Africa played their first international rugby match in 1891, before playing in their first World Cup in 1995 as hosts. Despite playing a key role in the globalization of rugby, the Springboks didn’t participate in the first two editions of the Rugby World Cup due to international anti-apartheid sporting boycotts.
The Springboks have also been among the dominant nations in the World Rugby Championship, winning the top title against nations such as New Zealand, Australia, and Argentina on eight occasions. Meanwhile, they are the only national side to have won the Rugby Championship and World Cup in the same year.
Other Countries Who Have A Good Record On International Matches
Scotland has been among the biggest movers in the world rankings over recent years, as their performances in the Six Nations have gradually improved. That has seen Scottish players become more valuable at Oval3.
However, the Scots will likely need a renewed effort to once again move up the world rugby game rankings and stand a better chance of a favorable draw in the upcoming World Cup in 2027.
Australia was one of the biggest losers in the rankings following the 2023 World Cup. They dropped to ninth in the rankings after exiting the competition at the group stage for the first time in the history of world rugby.
Nonetheless, there is hope ahead for the Aussies in the current time. A new era will get underway in the rugby of Australia in early 2024 with Eddie Jones parting company with the national side following an embarrassing World Cup campaign.
Appearing just outside the top 6 of World Rugby Rankings, Argentina is slowly becoming one of the top side rugby teams in the world. In the last Rugby World Cup the Argentinians finished 4th, after eliminating Wales in the quarter-finals and losing to eventual World Cup Rugby champion New Zealand. They lost to England then in the 3rd place match.
Back in 2007 Argentina had their best World Cup result ever, when they finished third, beating France twice: once in the group stage and in the bronze medal match. Known as Los Pumas, they have climbed through the ranks in international matches, but rugby culture is not recent at all in Argentina.
The game of Rugby Union started in the country in 1897, introduced by British emigrants in Buenos Aires. The most successful Argentinian rugby player is Agustin Pichot, who is inducted in the World Rugby Hall Of Fame and had a successful career playing in France Top 14 and England.
We have gone through some of the best teams in world rugby, with all achieving dominant success on the field throughout recent history. However, few nations can come close to the success that has been achieved by South Africa, as the Springboks have won each of the last two editions of the World Cup.
However, the open nature of the previous tournament will certainly ensure that a growing number of players at Oval3 will have well-rounded expertise of some of the game’s biggest global stars.