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Page last updated at 18:45 GMT, Monday, 2 March 2009

England slide to lowest ranking

England boss Martin Johnson
Johnson has lost five of his seven Tests in charge of England

England's defeat against Ireland in the Six Nations on Saturday has seen them slip to eighth in the world rankings, their lowest ever position.

England began 2009 in sixth, but are now one slot above Scotland after five defeats in their last seven Tests.

Reigning Six Nations champions Wales have dropped one place to fifth following defeat to France, who lie seventh, while Ireland are sixth.

New Zealand top the rankings, with South Africa in second place.

And with fellow southern hemisphere giant Australia third and Argentina fourth, the rankings do not make altogether happy reading for European rugby fans.

1 New Zealand 92.68 pts
2 South Africa 89.45
3 Australia 85.86
4 Argentina 81.56
5 Wales 81.47
6 Ireland 81.18
7 France 80.14
8 England 79.68
9 Scotland 76.19
10 Fiji 75.24
When the International Rugby Board first brought in the system after the 2003 World Cup, England - newly crowned as world champions - headed the field, but their fortunes have faded since then.

Johnson's predecessors Andy Robinson and Brian Ashton struggled to arrest the gradual slide down the rankings, although England did reach the 2007 World Cup final under Ashton.

England could even fall to ninth place if they were to lose their final two Six Nations games against France and Scotland, although victories would see Johnson's side climb back up the table with little to separate several sides.

Meanwhile, England received some welcome good news with the discovery that winger Paul Sackey's leg injury is not as serious as first feared.

Scans have confirmed that Sackey has not suffered any bone damage and that the injury is in his left calf muscle.

The starting XV from Saturday's defeat will reconvene for training at Oulton Hall in Yorkshire, a change from the regular Pennyhill Park base, on Wednesday.

But the other 17 members of the squad have been released to play for their clubs this weekend.

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see also
Indiscipline angers boss Johnson
28 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Hadden upbeat about title chance
28 Feb 09 |  Scottish
Ireland 14-13 England
28 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Ireland v England photos
28 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
England drop to fifth in rankings
17 Nov 08 |  Rugby Union
Ireland v England match stats
28 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Wales 23-15 England
14 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
England 36-11 Italy
07 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union

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