World champions New Zealand on Friday mark eight years or 2922 consecutive days as the No 1 side on World Rugby’s Rankings.
The All Blacks returned to the top of the World Rugby Rankings on November 16, 2009, as a result of the 1.72 rating points South Africa lost following their 20-13 loss to fifth-ranked France in Toulouse three days earlier.
New Zealand’s 20-6 victory over 12th-ranked Italy that weekend in Milan had no impact on their own rating, but ensured they had a cushion of just over five tenths over the defeated Springboks when the rankings updated.
That slender advantage at the top has grown to its current 3.69 points, although England are the team now leading the chase to knock the All Blacks off the summit rather than South Africa.
That cushion seems healthy, but is almost half the 7.08 points which New Zealand took into the November internationals a year ago when they enjoyed their highest ever rating total of 96.57.
Even that is much lower than their highest advantage over the second-ranked side of 9.41 points, which they enjoyed over France on 25 June, 2007.
In all, New Zealand have occupied top spot for an incredible 87.22 per cent of the time since the rankings were introduced in October 2003, with South Africa and England the only two other nations to hold the number one mantle.
New Zealand have also ended the year in the number one position 12 times with Rugby World Cup winners England (2003) and South Africa (2007) preventing a total blackout.
New Zealand’s record over the last eight years makes for impressive reading with the 108 tests played having yielded 96 victories, nine losses and three draws.
Australia have been responsible for four of those losses with South Africa (2), the British and Irish Lions, Ireland and England the only other teams to taste victory over the All Blacks in this period.
The All Blacks have scored 3 811 points and 472 tries in those matches, while conceding only 1 705 and 147 respectively. In other words, they have scored more than 2.2 times as many points and 3.2 times as many tries as they have conceded.
Ryan Crotty’s try in last weekend’s 38-18 victory over France was also the All Blacks’ 2 000th test try, the first side to reach that milestone.
They have also won back-to-back Rugby World Cup titles in 2011 and 2015, six Tri-Nations/Rugby Championship titles and the Bledisloe Cup eight times.
Not to mention becoming the first team in the professional era to go through a calendar year unbeaten with 14 wins from 14 in 2013 and twice stringing together unbeaten runs of 20 or more tests.
Draws against Australia halted both of those winning runs and prevented the All Blacks from setting a new world record for consecutive test victories, but they finally equalled Lithuania’s tally of 18 wins in a row between August 15, 2015 to October 22, 2016 before their shock loss to Ireland in Chicago.
New Zealand have also dominated the World Rugby Awards since they returned to the number one ranking with seven (out of eight) Men’s Player of the Year and Team of the Year accolades, six Coach of the Year awards and the inaugural Breakthrough Player of the Year in 2015.