Those are just two of the possible permutations in the World Rugby Rankings this weekend as the Six Nations and the Americas Rugby Championship continue.
Round three of the Six Nations kicks off on Friday with France’s encounter with Italy in Marseilles, followed by Saturday’s double bill featuring Ireland versus Wales and Scotland against England.
In the penultimate round of the Americas Rugby Championship, defending champions and 2018 leaders USA will be looking to keep their 100 per cent record intact with victory against Brazil in São Jose dos Campos on Saturday. The same day Chile take on Uruguay in Santiago and Argentina XV play Canada in Jujuy, although the latter does not count towards the rankings.
We take a brief look at how matches in both continental competitions and the Rugby Europe Trophy 2018 encounter between Portugal and Switzerland could affect the rankings by close of play on Sunday.
Two teams in search of a win, breaking new ground in the south of France.— NatWest 6 Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 22, 2018
Read all about @FFRugby v @Federugby in the @orangevelodrome on Friday night! #NatWest6Nations
FRANCE (10) v ITALY (14)
France have made five changes to their starting XV to face Italy at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille. Mathieu Bastareaud returns in the midfield, where he will partner Geoffrey Doumayrou, while it is also all change in the back three. Benjamin Fall is given the task of replacing Teddy Thomas, the scorer of three tries in the opening two rounds, on the right wing while there is also a first start of the campaign on the other wing for Rémy Grosso. Hugo Bonneval takes on the full-back duties. The final change comes in the pack where Paul Gabrillagues gets the nod in the second row in place of Arthur Iturria.
Openside Maxime Mbandà makes his first start for Italy in this season’s Championship in a line-up showing three changes to the one that lost 56-19 in Dublin a fortnight ago. The other changes are in the pack too, with Andrea Lovotti and Leonardo Ghiraldini coming into the front-row.
- This will be the eighth game to be played on a Friday in Six Nations history, all the others have involved Wales, with four being between France and Wales
- France are on an 11-match winning streak at home to Italy dating back to 1997
- Italy have only beaten France in three of the 39 matches given full test match status. Their last win was a 23-18 victory in the 2013 Six Nations in Rome
- Stade Velodrome first staged a France international in 2000, when Les Bleus beat New Zealand 42-33
- Three of Italy’s pack – Leonardo Ghiraldini, Alessandro Zanni and Sergio Parisse – have more caps (323) than the whole of the French starting XV (291)
France cannot move any higher than their present position of 10th even if they win well as the 0.13 of a point on offer for a victory of more than 15 points will not be enough for them to overhaul Fiji in ninth. Les Bleus could fall below Japan for the first time in rankings history if they lose to the Azzurri, while an Italian win by more than 15 points would see them swap places with Georgia and move up two places to 12th.
IRELAND (3) v WALES (6)
Chris Farrell comes in for his first-ever Six Nations start for Ireland against Wales but British and Irish Lions Iain Henderson and Tadhg Furlong both miss out through injury. Both Henderson and Furlong were injured in the eight-try win over Italy in round two in Dublin and have lost their fitness battles. Andrew Porter, who came on for Furlong in the Italy game, is named in the front row alongside Cian Healy and captain Rory Best, who becomes Ireland’s third most capped player with 109 tests.
Wales’ backline is boosted by the return of their Lions trio Dan Biggar, Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny. Warren Gatland has named an unchanged pack for the trip to Dublin.
- Ireland have gone three matches without a win against Wales in this competition, their worst run since an eight-game streak (L7, D1) between 1971 and 1979
- Honours are even across the last five Six Nations meetings between these sides in Dublin, both picking up two wins with the last encounter ending in a draw
- Ireland have not lost at home in the Six Nations since England beat them 12-6 in 2013. Since then they have won 10 and drawn two at the Aviva Stadium. however, no side has won in Dublin against Ireland more often in the Six Nations than Wales (three times like France)
- This match will be Warren Gatland’s 100th test in charge of Wales and his record currently reads 50 wins, 47 defeats and two draws
The gap between Ireland and second-placed England could be down to as little as one and quarter points if they beat Wales by more than 15 points and England suffer a similarly big margin of defeat at Murrayfield in Saturday’s later kick-off. Any form of defeat for the Irish would see them drop below Australia into fourth and they could even slip to fifth if Wales win by more than 15 points. Such an outcome would see Wales climb to third, their highest ranking since RWC 2015. A narrower margin of victory would see Wales better South Africa’s rating and move up one place – unless Scotland regain the Calcutta Cup in emphatic style.
SCOTLAND (7) v ENGLAND (2)
The Scotland side that started the 32-26 win over France a fortnight ago has been asked to go again by coach Gregor Townsend. There are, however, three changes to the bench with fit-again prop Willem Nel and second-row Tim Swinson – both of whom returned to the squad this week – named among the replacements in place of Jon Welsh and Ben Toolis. Glasgow centre Nick Grigg is the only change among the backs replacements.
Number eight Nathan Hughes comes in for the injured Sam Simmonds as the only change to the England starting XV. Hughes has recovered from a knee injury to take his place at the back of the pack and win his 13th cap. On the bench, Joe Marler replaces Alec Hepburn after serving a six-week suspension for foul play and will provide cover for loose-head prop Mako Vunipola.
- Scotland’s last win over England in the Six Nations came back in 2008, since then they have lost eight and drawn one of their nine encounters
- England are on a three-match winning run over Scotland at Murrayfield, their best run in the Six Nations era
- Scotland have failed to score a try in their last six home games against England in the Six Nations and they’ve never reached 20 points against them in nine Championship matches there
- Scotland have won their last five home games in the Six Nations, as many as they’d won in their previous 23 in the Championship (D1, L17)
The 3.12-point advantage currently enjoyed by the world’s number one team New Zealand and nearest rivals England would be cut by a fraction over three-quarters of a point if the defending Six Nations champions return home with a big victory in the bag. A tighter scoreline would still see England gain half a point in victory. With as many 2.24 points on offer for a Scottish win at Murrayfield, it is possible for Townsend’s side to climb up to fifth.
RUGBY EUROPE TROPHY
PORTUGAL (24) v SWITZERLAND (31)
Portugal coach Martin Aguair has made wholesale changes to the team that took to the field in the 36-12 win over the Netherlands a fortnight ago. The new-look front row features Bruno Medeiros, who captains the side from loose-head, and Francisco Bruno, with Joao Corte-Real at hooker. Fernando Almeida lines up in the second-row in the only other change to the pack. In the backline, Francisco gets a start at scrum-half, Vasco Ribeiro comes into the midfield at inside centre and Antonio Monteiro is named on the right wing.
The Switzerland team is unrecognisable from the one that laboured to a 30-27 win over the Ivory Coast earlier this month. Coach Olivier Niar has made a total of nine changes, three in the forwards and six behind the pack. Maxime Lucon comes in at hooker, Corentin Braendlin is named in the second row and Johnatan Wullschleger is the new addition at openside with full-back Liam Kavanagh the only player retained in the backline.
- Defending champions Portugal will go six points clear at the top of the Trophy standings if they win with a bonus point
- Switzerland will go from fourth to second with an emphatic victory
- Portugal have won all five previous matches against Switzerland with an average winning margin of 28 points
- Switzerland have failed to score in three of these matches
With only three-tenths of a point on offer for a convincing victory of more than 15 points, Os Lobos cannot catch Namibia, the side immediately above them in the rankings. A win for Switzerland by such a margin would see them ranked higher than Portugal when the rankings are updated at 12:00 GMT on Monday. The Swiss would climb to 27th, on the back of a 2.7-point gain, while Portugal would drop four to 28th.
AMERICAS RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
Round 4 of the Americas Rugby Championship kicks off on Saturday.— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) February 21, 2018
First game of the day will be @chilerugby1 v @RugbyUruguay at 15:10 (GMT-3)
Watch LIVE on ESPN if based in Americas
All other territories follow the stream on https://t.co/EORlgDAIuA pic.twitter.com/afGBx0tRT0
CHILE (25) v URUGUAY (18)
Blindside flanker Javier Richard captains a Chile side showing five changes to the one beaten 45-13 by the USA last weekend. Anton Petrowitsch joins Richard in the back row, while the only other changes to the pack come at prop, where Sebastian Otero and Vittorio Lastra come into the front-row. Domingo Saavedra is handed the scrum-half duties while Matias Balbontin is a new addition to the right wing.
Andres Vilaseca is handed the captain’s armband as Los Teros’ regular leader, Juan Manuel Gaminara is out injured. Coach Esteban Meneses makes six changes to his starting line-up, split equally between backs and forwards. German Kessler packs down at hooker alongside Mateo Sanguinetti and Juan Echeverria while Diego Ayala starts in the second row. With Alejandro Nieto one of the many walking wounded in the Uruguay camp, Juan Diego Ormaechea gets a run out at number eight. Nicolas Freitas is another casualty from last week’s game against Argentina XV and his place on the left wing is taken by Federico Favaro. Joaquin Prada lines up at outside centre and Leandro Leivas finds himself on the right wing.
- Chile are bottom and Uruguay third going into round four
- Chile won eight of the first 11 meetings between the sides (1948-75) but only three times since
- Los Condores’ last victory (21-18) came in the Sudamerica Rugby A Championship in 2011
- Chile have not tasted Americas Rugby Championship victory since the opening round of the inaugural tournament in 2016
- Last week’s defeat by Argentina XV was Uruguay’s first loss in 12 months, ending a run of 14 matches unbeaten. Los Teros, though, are unbeaten in their last 13 tests
- Uruguay won 23-20 the last time they visited Santiago in the 2016 edition
Chile will be rewarded for a victory of more than 15 points with a two-place rise to 23rd even if Portugal beat Switzerland in similar fashion. Such a result would drop Uruguay below Spain and into 19th place. Los Teros can only replace the USA in 17th if they win and the Eagles fail to do so against lower-ranked Brazil.
BRAZIL (27) v USA (17)
Only two of Brazil's starting pack against Canada remain for the visit of the Eagles, with Cleber Dias da Silva moving from openside to the second-row and Andre Arruda staying put at number eight. The only changes to Os Tupis' backline involve Robert Tenorio coming back into the side on the left wing with Stefano Giantorno making his first appearance of the Championship on the right.
Eagles coach Gary Gold makes four changes of personnel and three positional from the starting line-up that featured in the 45-13 win over Chile. Dylan Fawsitt and Chris Baumann come into the front row at hooker and tight-head respectively while Ben Landry switches jerseys, from number five to four, following Nick Civetta’s introduction to the second row. Tony Lamborn, who bagged a brace when the Eagles beat Brazil 51-3 in last year’s Championship, has to settle for a place on the bench as Hanco Germishuys returns to the openside position. Nate Augspurger retains the captain’s armband but moves from scrum-half to wing, with Shaun Davies wearing the number nine jersey. The other change to the backs sees Josh Whippy move from the right wing to the left.
- USA have a three-point lead at the top of the ARC standings. Brazil are fifth heading into the weekend
- The home side has won on the two previous occasions the sides have met in this competition: Brazil 24-23 in 2016 and the USA 51-3 in 2017
- The Eagles have won six out of their last seven games
- Brazil are the joint lowest scorers (39 points) with Chile in this year's competition
A resounding victory for hosts Brazil could result in them climbing up to their highest ever ranking of 24th. The 0.35 of a point on offer for an Eagles win by more than 15 points would not be enough to lift the defending champions any higher than their present position of 17th.
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