Starting at the top, with the world's number one side New Zealand, we take a brief look at this weekend's fixtures to see how the World Rugby Rankings may be affected when they are updated at 12 noon on Monday.
NEW ZEALAND (1) v FRANCE (8)
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has named two debutants in his starting line-up with another player set to make his international bow from the bench. Taking to the field from the off are blindside flanker Shannon Frizzell and outside centre Jack Goodhue, one of two World Rugby U20 Championship graduates in the All Blacks’ match-day 23. The other graduate is uncapped replacement Richie Mo'unga. Damian McKenzie gets his first test start at fly-half, while Sonny Bill Williams has made a quicker return to fitness than expected and lines up in midfield alongside Goodhue.
Mathieu Bastareaud’s short run as Les Bleus captain has come to an end with scrum-half Morgan Parra taking on the role instead for the third and final test in Dunedin. France coach Jacques Brunel has opted for a new-look midfield pairing of Wesley Fofana and Remi Lamerat as they chase a first win in 14 attempts against New Zealand. Benjamin Fall continues at full-back after having his red card in last week’s defeat in Wellington rescinded, while Felix Lambey could make his test debut off the bench.
- France have now gone 14 matches without a win against New Zealand
- The All Blacks have never beaten France in Dunedin, losing the only test they have played there 27-22 in 2009
- With his 31st try last weekend, Ben Smith is now joint 10th on the All Blacks' try-scoring list.
With two full points on offer for a win of more than 15 points, France can climb one place to seventh. For the All Blacks, there is no reward for victory but a heavy defeat, combined with a big win for Ireland against Australia, would see their cushion at the top cut to less than half a point.
AUSTRALIA (4) v IRELAND (2)
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has made two changes to his starting side ahead of the series decider against Ireland, to be played in front of a sold-out Allianz Stadium in Sydney. David Pocock shifts to number eight to make way for Lukhan Tui at blindside flanker while Nick Phipps will start at scrum-half after Will Genia suffered a fractured arm last weekend. Saturday's test will be Tui’s first start in Wallaby gold, having appeared off the bench in his previous six internationals.
Jack McGrath wins his 50th cap as Ireland make four positional and four personnel changes to the team that lined up for last week’s 26-21 win in Melbourne. McGrath is joined in the pack by hooker Sean Cronin and number eight Jack Conan, while captain Peter O’Mahony switches from six to seven with CJ Stander moving to the blindside to accommodate Conan’s introduction at the back of the pack. In the backs, Keith Earls swaps flanks to take the right-wing jersey occupied by Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose makes way for Robbie Henshaw at 13 with Henshaw’s inside centre role now fulfilled by Bundee Aki. Six Nations try-scoring hero Jacob Stockdale is given an opportunity on the left wing.
- The 26-21 win in Melbourne was Ireland’s fifth win over Australia on Australian soil and their first there since 1979
- Johnny Sexton needs just seven points to overtake Ronan O’Gara (74 points) and become the highest scoring player in matches between the sides
- In his first 11 test appearances, Jacob Stockdale has never gone two games without scoring a try. He drew a blank in the first test in Brisbane
Any form of victory will be enough for Australia to climb above Wales and into third place. If Australia lose badly and South Africa and England draw, the Wallabies will equal their joint lowest ranking of sixth. Ireland are certain to finish the weekend in second place whatever the result.
SOUTH AFRICA (5) v ENGLAND (6)
Rassie Erasmus has made five changes to his Springbok team as they look to seal a 3-0 series win over England. In a rejigged backline, Warrick Gelant starts at full-back, Jesse Kriel and Andre Esterhuizen form the new-look midfield and Elton Jantjies is given the fly-half responsibilities. The pack is unchanged other than at hooker where Chiliboy Ralepelle wins his 25th cap. Standing by to replace him if needed is 37-year-old Schalk Brits, who is set to make his first Springbok appearance since Rugby World Cup 2015 from the bench.
Danny Cipriani starts his first test for England since 2008 in a side showing four changes to the one beaten 23-12 in Bloemfontein. Cipriani replaces George Ford at fly-half while all the other changes are in the pack. With Mako Vunipola and Brad Shields ruled out for family reasons and illness respectively, Joe Marler and Chris Robshaw start at loose-head and blindside. Nathan Hughes continues at number eight in the place of Billy Vunipola, as he did last week when the Saracens player went off with an arm injury.
- England have failed to score a try in their two previous tests at Newlands in Cape Town
- Following their 23-12 victory in the second test last weekend, South Africa have now won all six series at home to England
- Should England lose their sixth test on the bounce, it would be their worst run for 12 years
If the Springboks wrap up a 3-0 series win and Australia lose at home to Ireland, they will leapfrog the Wallabies and move into fourth place. Having dropped to their lowest ranking since March 2016, the good news for England fans is that they cannot drop any lower even if the series is lost 3-0. Indeed, with a fraction under two rating points on offer for a big win, third place is within their reach if Australia fail to beat Ireland.
ARGENTINA (10) v SCOTLAND (7)
Argentina hand a debut to centre Bautista Ezcurra as head coach Daniel Hourcade looks to sign off with a win in his final game in charge of Los Pumas. The World Rugby U20 Championship graduate will become the 856th player to wear the light blue and white hooped jersey. He replaces Jerónimo De la Fuente, while Sebastián Cancelliere will start instead of Ramiro Moyano in the only other change to the backline. Hourcade had opted to change half his pack with Leonardo Senatore winning his 50th cap. Javier Díaz, Matías Alemanno and Tomás Lezana are the other new additions.
Tour captain Stuart McInally has recovered from injury to feature in Scotland’s final test against Argentina at the Estadio Centenario this Saturday. The Edinburgh hooker has been given the all-clear to start in Resistencia having been ruled out of the first two games by a calf strain. McInally is one of eight changes to the starting side named coach Gregor Townsend, six of which accompany him in the pack where Tim Swinson is the only forward to be retained from last weekend’s loss to USA – albeit as a second-row this time around. The only change to the backs sees winger Dougie Fife – a try-scorer against the USA – promoted from the bench to earn his first start since 2015.
- Scotland have won their last three tests against Argentina, but Los Pumas have won games to their seven overall
- Argentina have only won two of their last 17 tests
- Scotland became the first tier one nation to lose to the USA since the Eagles beat France in the gold medal match at the 1924 Olympic Games
The rewards on offer for a big Pumas win are just enough to take the home side above Fiji and into ninth place, as long as the Islanders don’t beat Tonga by more than 15 points in Suva. Scotland can claw back 1.17 of the points they lost in defeat to the USA if they win well against Argentina. However, that still would be enough for them to catch England in sixth place, even if Eddie Jones’ side ends their tour of South Africa with a whimper.
FIJI (9) v TONGA (14)
Fiji’s starting line-up includes four new faces and three positional changes with last week’s try-scoring debutant Semi Radradra missing from the match-day 23 altogether. In the pack, Talemaitoga Tuapati replaces Tuvere Vugakoto at hooker while Viliama Mata switches from the second row to number eight. Captain Akapusi Qera moves to blindside as a result of the switch with Mosese Voka the man to miss out. Frank Lomani starts at scrum-half in place of Henry Seniloli as a reward for his two late tries in the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup title decider against Georgia, while Vereniki Goneva moves from wing to outside centre with Timoci Nagusa stepping into the side out wide.
- Fiji wrapped up their fourth consecutive Pacific Nations Cup title, and their fifth in total, thanks to last week’s 37-15 win over Georgia
- Fiji scrum-half Henry Seniloli is scoring tries at almost one every other game. His first-half brace against Georgia took his tally to 10 in 21 matches
- In scoring six tries in last week’s win, Fiji have reached the 1,000-try milestone in tests
World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup champions Fiji cannot move any higher than their present position of ninth as there are only five-hundredths of a point on offer for an emphatic win. A big win for Tonga would move them as high as 11th, for the first time since September 2015 if Japan versus Georgia also ends in a draw.
As @JRFURugby prepare for a crunch match against @GeorgianRugby , hear from Georgia head coach Milton Haig— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) June 21, 2018
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JAPAN (11) v GEORGIA (12)
Injuries have forced Jamie Joseph’s hand in terms of selection with a much-changed line-up taking to the field against Georgia compared to last week’s narrow loss against Italy. Joseph has made seven changes and two positional switches for a game that the Brave Blossoms need to win to stay above the Lelos in the rankings. Akihito Yamada and Ryuji Noguchi are two new additions in the backs with Timothy Lafaele moving out one to accommodate Harumichi Tatekawa’s return at inside centre. Yutaka Nagare takes over from Fumiaki Tanaka at scrum-half. Amanaki Mafi is restored to number eight having been dropped to the bench last week, and he is joined in the pack by specialist openside Shunsuke Nunomaki which means captain Michael Leitch switches to blindside as a result. The one other change in the pack is in the second row with the return of Shinya Makabe.
Georgia coach Milton Haig has named a vastly experienced line-up boasting 718 caps and including two centurions in Merab Kvirikashvili (112 caps) and Davit Kacharava (111). Openside flanker Viktor Kolelishvili wins his 50th cap for the Lelos, who are captained by second-row Giorgi Nemsadze.
- Japan have won four of the five previous meetings between the two nations with the Lelos’ only success a 35-24 victory in Tbilisi in 2014
- Georgia are 13 points shy of scoring 5,000 points in tests
- For the third time in their last 14 tests, Georgia failed to score a single point in the second half against Fiji last week
Japan will pick up one full rating point if they bounce back from last weekend’s loss to Italy and win well. That will still not be enough to lift them any higher than their present position of 11th. Georgia will move into the world’s top 10 for the first time since the rankings were introduced in October 2003 if they win well and Argentina slip up at home to Scotland.
CANADA (22) v USA (15)
Head coach Kingsley Jones has shuffled the front-row after a tough day at the office for Canada’s scrum against Russia. Djustice Sears-Duru and Jake Ilnicki replace Noah Barker and Cole Keith, while Ray Barkwill retains his place in the number two jersey. Lucas Rumball will again captain the team, with Matt Heaton and Luke Campbell making up the back-row. After experimenting with a new half-back combination in the 43-20 defeat against Russia, Jones has opted for experience with Phil Mack and Shane O’Leary coming back in at nine and ten. Jones has also decided to bring Ben LeSage back into the midfield alongside Nick Blevins. The back-three sees two changes; Pat Parfrey slots back into the full-back position after recovering from injury, while Kainoa Lloyd gets his first chance on the wing alongside Jeff Hassler.
USA head coach Gary Gold has made three changes to his starting XV as the Eagles look to sign off their June series with a 3-0 record. With Joe Taufete, the Eagles’ two-try hero against Scotland, returning home for personal reasons, Dylan Fawsitt will start at hooker. Elsewhere, Ben Landry steps in for the injured John Quill on the blindside and Nate Augspurger is named on the left wing with Marcel Brache switching to centre. Uncapped Seattle Seawolves flanker Vili Toluta'u is on the bench.
- The Eagles are on a six-game winning run - their best in international rugby
- The current win-draw-loss record reads 38-2-19 in favour of Canada
- The USA have had the upper-hand in the rivalry in recent times, winning seven and drawing one of the last eight encounters
- It has been almost five years since Canada last beat the USA – A narrow 13-11 victory at BMO Field in Toronto on August 24, 2013.
Canada will reclaim 21st place from Hong Kong if they upset the form book and beat neighbours USA. For the Eagles, it is not possible for them to move any higher than 15th although a big win would see them close to within two-tenths of Tonga if the ‘Ikale Tahi are well beaten by Fiji.
RUGBY AFRICA GOLD CUP
NAMIBIA (23) v TUNISIA (42)
Teams yet to be announced
With more than 11 points and 19 places between the sides, Namibia cannot improve their position with victory in this Rugby Africa Gold Cup match which doubles as a Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifier. Tunisia, however, could climb as many as seven places, to 35th, if they pull off a shock result.
MOROCCO (38) v KENYA (28)
Kenya coach Ian Snook has handed debuts to winger Edmund Anya and hooker Colman Were with three other players – Mohammed Omollo, Zedden Marrow and Max Kang’eri – set to win their first caps if called upon from the bench. Overall, there are four changes to the side that started last month’s 34-16 Elgon Cup win over Uganda in Kampala, with Were preferred to Peter Karia who is named among the replacements.
Morocco could climb three places to move above Uganda, who sit out the latest round of Rugby Africa Gold Cup matches, as well as Poland and Ukraine if they win well. Kenya, who go into the matched ranked 10 places higher, stand to gain a fraction under one point for a comprehensive victory which would be enough to see them replace the Netherlands in 27th.
The Asia Rugby Championship Division I fixture between the Philippines and Singapore is the only other match to carry rating points. A home win for the Philippines would see the sides swap places and finish the weekend in 56th and 58th place respectively.
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