The latest rankings have been issued following various autumn internationals that featured Word Cup qualifiers, the European and Americas Championships, Pacific Tests plus England’s three-match home series against New Zealand.
Given Wayne Bennett’s side defeated the Kiwis 2-1 and also beat the same opponents in Denver mid-season, it means they have now usurped New Zealand from second spot.
Moreover, they have also significantly closed the gap on Australia, so much so it is likely that when the Kangaroos travel here in 2020, top position will be up for grabs as well as the Ashes.
England director of rugby Sinfield said: “This is a good way to round off what has been a successful year for all our teams in the England Performance Unit.
“We saw a good number of new faces come through into the senior England squad, some of them from the Knights programme who themselves had a successful trip to Papua New Guinea.
“It’s pleasing to see the investment we’ve made, in combination with Sport England, paying dividends and due credit for what has been an excellent team effort on and off the field.”
France has moved back to sixth after their triumph in the European Championship and passage to the 2021 World Cup, Wales and Jamaica also going up in the rankings after similarly making the tournament in England in three years’ time.
New Zealand slip to third, Tonga are fourth and Fiji fifth, with Scotland eighth, Wales 11th and Ireland 12th.
In all, 65 fully sanctioned international matches were played in the calendar year which represents a record for rugby league.
Wakefield Trinity have been accepted into the Women’s Super League in 2019.
They join Bradford Bulls, Castleford Tigers, Featherstone Rovers, Leeds Rhinos, St Helens, Wigan Warriors and York City Knights as the teams involved in the competition’s second year rises to eight.