Ireland have replaced Australia in third place in the World Rugby Rankings after their 50-22 win over Japan in Shizuoka and the Wallabies’ 24-19 loss at home to Scotland.
Joe Schmidt’s side added seven tries to the nine they managed against the USA the week before in Philadelphia as they registered another convincing victory in the second match of their three-game tour of North America and Japan.
With 11 regulars missing on British and Irish Lions duty, an exciting crop of young players turned on the style to produce a result that was worth 0.43 of a rating point.
Keith Earls, Dan Leavy and Jack Conan bagged a brace of tries apiece, with Garry Ringrose scoring the other Irish try. Paddy Jackson enjoyed a flawless afternoon with the boot, kicking five conversions and a penalty, with Rory Scannell adding a late conversion.
Japan trailed 31-3 at the break but second-half tries by Ryuji Noguchi, Kenki Fukuoka and Yutaka Nagore allowed for a more respectable final scoreline.
While Ireland increase their rating to 85.09 points, Australia’s is down by 1.72 points to 84.63, putting them just over seven tenths above Scotland, who are on 83.90.
SCOTS ON VERGE OF TOP FOUR
Scotland needed a victory margin of more than 15 points to break into the world’s top four for the first time since the rankings were introduced in October 2003. However, with three of the last five fixtures between the nations settled by a single point, most famously at Twickenham in the quarter-final of RWC 2015, such an outcome was always going to be unlikely.
Scotland, though, will settle for a thoroughly deserved five-point victory which involved some heroic defending and a wonderful team try for flanker Hamish Watson (pictured).
While the top four still alludes them, Scotland did enough to move above South Africa into fifth place, because the Springboks only gained 0.76 of a point for beating France 37-15 - a scoreline remarkably matched a day later by their U20 side against Les Bleuets at the World Rugby U20 Championship - to take their tally to 83.63 points.
Wales only enjoyed a marginal gain for a scrappy 24-6 win over Tonga in Auckland on Friday to stay seventh, while France and Argentina are unchanged in eighth and ninth respectively following consecutive losses to the Springboks and England.
ENGLAND EDGE CLOSER
After completing a 2-0 series whitewash of Argentina with a 35-25 victory over Los Pumas in Sante Fe, England have cut the gap to number one ranked New Zealand by 0.61 of a point over the past fortnight. The All Blacks did not pick up any rating points for their 78-0 win over Samoa so they now have a 4.64-point cushion over Eddie Jones’ side.
Fijian RWC 2015 fly-half Ben Volavola kicked a last-gasp, match-winning drop goal to break Italian hearts in Suva, his strike worth 0.17 of a point in the rankings to the Pacific side. With a healthy 2.55-point buffer over nearest rivals Japan, Fiji’s place in the world’s top 10 looks safe for now. Italy stay 15th despite the 22-19 defeat.
Georgia are now homing in on Japan in 11th place after making it two wins from two on their tour of the Americas. Having seen off Canada 13-0 in the Calgary rain, the Lelos overcame hot and humid conditions to edge USA 21-17 in Kennesaw a week later, mainly thanks to a 17-point contribution from test centurion Merab Kvirikashvili.
Milton Haig’s side, who conclude their June tour against Argentina on Saturday, pick up 0.69 of a rating point as a result of the victory.
LOS TEROS REWARDED FOR TITLE WIN
The only significant movers from a tier two perspective were Uruguay, who claimed their first-ever World Rugby Nations Cup title with a 24-14 win over Spain in Montevideo on Sunday.
With a gain of one and two-thirds of a point for that victory and a 32-29 win over Russia earlier in the week, Los Teros move on to 63.15 points to climb three places to 18th, above Spain, Russia and Namibia.
Spain and Russia are only separated by one-thousandth of a point in 19th and 20th after the Bears bounced back from their slender loss to champions Uruguay to beat Namibia 31-10 in the only other Nations Cup tie to affect the rankings.
Despite losing 25-9 at home to Romania, Canada remain in 23rd position, albeit with a reduced rating of 59.22 points.
The Cayman Islands’ 39-17 win over Mexico came with a two-place rise to 55th, but it wasn’t enough to prevent USA South taking the north zone title in the Rugby Americas North Championship. Mexico drop six places to 56th. USA South will now play Guyana on 1 July for the overall title.