It will all end in tiers if Ireland don't beat Argentina
As Declan Kidney had forecast, and as was the case four years ago when the sides met at the Aviva, the psychological importance of securing a win over Argentina will be matched by the implications for Ireland’s seeding in the World Cup draw a fortnight from now.
A win would ensure a top eight IRB ranking and with it a second tier seeding, but defeat would push Ireland down to ninth or 10th, and thus down to the third band of countries when the draw for the 2015 tournament is made in London next Monday week.
The situation is complicated by the fact the margins between Argentina in sixth and Samoa in ninth are so small, although 10th placed Scotland cannot force their way into the top eight as of the teams above them, they can only overtake Ireland.
In effect though, and in the context of securing a top eight ranking, Ireland face a win-or-bust match regardless of the margins. An Ireland win would increase their rating to 79.82 and, even if Wales and Samoa both also win, that would ensure a top eight seeding on the basis they would overtake Argentina (79.10).
An Ireland defeat would see their rating drop to 77.82 and means they would fall out of the top eight in the rankings, as Wales and Samoa cannot fall below 78.95 and 78.67 even if they lose by more than 15 points at home to New Zealand and away to France (in that scenario, Scotland could also overtake Ireland if they beat Tonga by more than 15, as could Italy if they beat Australia).
A draw at the Aviva would push Ireland below Wales and leave Ireland relying on France to beat Samoa to secure eighth place.
For their part, Argentina know a win of any kind would mean they retain sixth place regardless of results anywhere else, and while a defeat would see them drop below Ireland it would require both Welsh and Samoan wins to edge them out of the top eight.
All 12 automatically qualified teams are in action this weekend. There will also be some jockeying for position between Australia, France and England for the last two places in the top band alongside New Zealand and South Africa.
The situation is made more complicated in that England and Wales have still to host New Zealand and Australia next week, and those matches will come into the equation.
Ultimately, the manoeuvring for positions might not matter significantly, for even with a second tier seeding Ireland could end up in the same group as, say, New Zealand and Wales. But a second tier seeding would at least ensure Ireland could not be drawn in the same pool group as, for example, New Zealand and the hosts England.
If the Pool Allocation Draw was to happen today, the bands for the World Cup draw would be as follows:
Band 1: New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, France
Band 2: England, Argentina, Ireland, Wales
Band 3: Samoa, Scotland, Italy, Tonga
Band 4: Oceania 1, Europe 1, Asia 1, Americas 1
Band 5: Africa 1, Europe 2, Americas 2, Repechage winner
IRB World Rankings
Position (last week) Pts
1 (1) New Zealand 92.91
2 (2) South Africa 86.05
3 (3) Australia 85.94
4 (4) France 84.99
5 (5) England 81.96
6 (7) Argentina 79.89
7 (8) Ireland 79.04
8 (6)Wales 78.95
9 (10) Samoa 78.79
10 (9) Scotland 77.42
11 (11) Italy 76.61
12 (12)Tonga 74.51