New Zealand is still ranked No.2 in the world, behind Australia and in front of England. This is despite the Kiwis' appalling showing at the 2017 World Cup and England's run to the final. Just what must England do to leapfrog New Zealand into second place?

How to determine the rankings

The Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) combines three factors to calculate the current international rankings: match status, opponent strength and assessment period. The match status factor is pretty self-explanatory; the RLIF has implemented a weighting system which gives more points to teams that gain a victory over a major team in a major tournament.

The likes of a World Cup semi-final or final or the final of Cups such as the European, Mediterranean and Pacific Cups will yield considerably more points than an international friendly.

Opponent strength is also easy to explain; the RLIF has organised the ranking so that a victory against a high-ranking opponent will produce more points because of it being a considerably greater achievement than a win against a low-rated opponent.

Regarding the assessment period, all matches played in the last three years are taken into consideration when the rankings are calculated, however, there is a weighting system that emphasises more recent results. It was no surprise therefore that Tonga moved up to fourth from 11th after their magnificent performances at the 2017 World Cup.

Yet, New Zealand's place in the second position remains unharmed.

England improvement

England has been ranked third since June 2013 - a position perhaps warranted back then with England being sent out of that year's World Cup by the Kiwis. But, in recent years, England have stepped it up a gear against their antipodean rivals; the three-match Test in November 2015 saw England register a 2-1 series' victory, though a heartbreaking semi-final loss to the Kiwis in the 2016 Four Nations somewhat balanced the record.

Taking the recent World Cup into consideration however, it is an injustice that England remain third in the rankings. The side lost just twice despite playing six games - with defeats coming against Australia in the group stages and the final - while it was the first time that an England side had reached the World Cup final since 1995.

Yes, New Zealand only lost twice in the competition too, but, they played just four games and were defeated by so-called "tier-two sides" - Tonga and Fiji - both sides that were, and still are, ranked below the Kiwis. And, compounded by the fact that New Zealand couldn't make it past the quarter-finals, this World Cup was the Kiwis' worst in their history, whilst it was England's best for 22 years.

Applying the current ranking methods to both sides

Both New Zealand and England won two of their World Cup group games - New Zealand against Samoa and Scotland, and England against Lebanon and France. These results, therefore, favoured the Kiwis in terms of the ranking system; Samoa and Scotland were ranked fifth and fourth respectively prior to the tournament while Lebanon and France were 18th and sixth, though New Zealand did lose to Tonga (who were ranked 11th) while England lost to Australia (ranked first).

New Zealand, however, fell at the first knockout hurdle - the quarter-finals against seventh-placed Fiji, while England passed PNG who were ranked 16th. England then beat New Zealand's conquerors Fiji to progress to the final. Now, bonus points are given for teams that reach certain milestones deemed of significant international importance including reaching a tournament final - a feat which England managed and which the Kiwis failed to achieve.

And, with an emphasis placed on more recent results, it is baffling as to why England have not taken New Zealand's position in second. Yes, the Kiwis beat England in the Four Nations semi-final in 2016, but they didn't even make it past the last eight in the World Cup - a tournament which stands as the most prestigious international event in any sporting calendar.

Maybe the sides will exchange rankings if England triumph against the Kiwis in this year's Autumn Internationals, but, this exchange should already have taken place; England should be No.2 in the world right now.