New Zealand is now officially the best team in international rugby league after being installed at the top of the world rankings.
The Kiwis knocked Australia off top spot for the first time since the standings were introduced thanks to the margin of their 26-12 win in the Anzac Test in Brisbane earlier this month. That victory was New Zealand's third in a row against Australia - the first time they had achieved that feat in 61 years - following back-to-back wins over the Kangaroos in the 2014 Four Nations Series "It's always humbling when your accomplishments are recognised in a tangible way and this ranking is a sign that we are doing something right in terms of our overall goal, which is simply to continually strive towards achieving our potential," said Stephen Kearney, New Zealand's longest-serving head coach, in a statement issued by the Rugby League International Federation. "We're somewhat fortunate that we've been able to field close to our strongest side over our last two campaigns - the Four Nations and this month's Anzac Test. "Compare that with last year's Anzac game, when we had about 16 players unavailable. "But it's also the result of some hard work put in by New Zealand Rugby League over the past 12 months and a testament to the players and staff that have really bought into that culture of constant improvement." Kearney added: "Despite this accolade, we still consider Australia as the benchmark for international rugby league and we know that defending this number one ranking against England on their home soil later this year will also present a wonderful challenge for us." RLIF chief executive David Collier said: "New Zealand's success in the recent Test has elevated them to the number one position by the narrowest of margins, which makes the series against third-placed England later in the year of even greater significance." The Kiwis are due to face England in three internationals in Hull, London and Wigan on the first three weekends in November.