Thanks Ireland! The bizarre 2019 World Cup curse the All Blacks may have dodged, just barely

The All Blacks may be entering this year's Rugby World Cup as tournament "favourites" but they'll do so without the No.1 rank attached to their name.

Richie McCaw lifts the Rugby World Cup Source: Photosport

And that may well be the best thing that could've happened to them.

This has been a big year for World Cup tournaments, with multiple sports bringing together the world's best men's and women's teams to battle for the right to be called world champions.

But at most of this year's biggest competitions, the No.1 ranked side in the world for the given sport has failed to live up to their status - with just two exceptions.

The US women's national team at the women's FIFA World Cup was one and the other was England at the Cricket World Cup, but most Kiwis would probably agree there's an asterisk next to that last result.

In all other tournaments this year, the No.1 team entering the competition has failed to come out alive at the other end.

That's good reading for All Blacks fans, considering Ireland jumped to the top of the pack in the final weekend of World Cup warm-ups with their win over Wales.

In case some All Blacks supporters need convincing there are examples outside of the women's football to argue a curse, here are four cases that make for scary reading for Irish rugby fans.

Basketball World Cup

No.1 ranked team: USA
Winner: Spain [ranked 2nd]

United States' coach Gregg Popovich, left talks to Donovan Mitchell and Kemba Walker. Source: Associated Press

The most recent example comes from the Basketball World Cup in China where USA finished 7th - their worst final placing at a major tournament in team history. 

An 89-79 quarter-final loss to France saw them exit the race for the title and they followed that up with a 94-89 loss to Serbia in the 5th-8th classification rounds.

They redeemed themselves slightly with an 87-74 win over Poland to claim seventh but for a team that could draw a plethora of talent from the NBA - basketball's biggest league globally - it was a massive failure.

Critics put the USA's poor showing down to their top talent - all-star players like former NBA MVPs James Harden and LeBron James - making themselves unavailable for selection. But regardless, the US came in as the top dogs and left well and truly tamed.

Netball World Cup

No.1 ranked team: Australia
Winner: New Zealand [ranked 4th]

Source: 1 NEWS

Australia entered the tournament earlier this year under heavy pressure after failing to win gold at last year's Commonwealth Games on home soil. What made it worse were the 2018 gold medallists were an in-form England outfit who were now hosting the World Cup.

But that pressure was soon relieved thanks to a stunning 47-45 semi-final win by the Silver Ferns, meaning the trans-Tasman rivals would square off for the title while England had to settle for third.

Australia were favourites on paper entering the final: they were the top-ranked team, had beaten NZ in pool play, and had won 12 of the last 13 contests between the two teams dating back to October 2017.

But this Silver Ferns side was different under Noeline Taurua and despite a horror 2018, peaked at the perfect time under their new coach.

The Silver Ferns completed their Hollywood story with a 52-51 win in the final while Australia were left with more critics to face and more questions to answer.

Softball World Championships

No.1 ranked team: New Zealand
Winner: Argentina [ranked 5th]

Black Sox pitcher Josh Pettett pitches against Australia in the World Championship quarter-finals. Source: WBSC

If you thought this curse didn't apply to New Zealand teams, you'd be wrong.

The Black Sox headed to Prague earlier this year looking to defend their title but a shock 5-4 loss to World No.9 Mexico early on in their campaign showed just how difficult the road would be.

They lost twice more in pool play to Argentina and Japan and were forced to play Australia in the quarter-finals - a replay of the 2017 World Championship final.

The Black Sox beat their Aussie rivals to meet Japan in the semis but came up just short 2-1, leaving them watching from the sidelines as Argentina went on to claim their first world title the following day.

Snooker World Cup

No.1 seeded team: China A
Winner: Scotland [seeded 3rd]

Last but not least, this year's Snooker World Cup held in June in China also saw some big upsets with the hosts unable to stop Scotland from claiming their first world title since 1996.

China had so much talent at their disposal they were able to enter two teams - China A and B - into the event with their "A" team, consisting of Ding Junhui and Yan Bingtao, the top seed for the competition.

However, China's hopes actually ended up falling to their seventh-seeded B team who reached the final after Scotland beat the Junhui and Bingtao in the semi-finals.

They were no match for John Higgins and Stephen Maguire, though, losing 4-0 in the best-of-seven final.

Rugby World Cup

No.1 ranked team: Ireland
Winner: ???

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt. Source: Getty

Which leaves us looking at Japan and an Irish outfit, who managed to claim the No.1 rank.

The top spot was passed around like a hot potato in the final weeks before everyone headed to Japan with New Zealand, Ireland and Wales all taking turns to hold the top spot.

But with Ireland's 19-10 win over Wales considered a more important victory than the All Blacks' 92-7 drubbing of Tonga earlier this month, the Irish snuck ahead by 0.07 points in World Rugby's ranking systems. Wales, on the other hand, has plummeted to fifth.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt wasn't fazed by the new status of his team, saying, "we all know who the favourites are and it's not us".

Only time will tell if the curse extends to "favourites".