Ireland have a golden opportunity to emulate Wales and climb to the top of the World Rugby Men's Rankings for the first time in history when they play England at Twickenham this weekend.
With Wales and New Zealand both having a rest week, a win for the Irish on Saturday will see them leapfrog those sides above them and move from third place to first. For England, third place is within their reach.
On the same day, Scotland and France will dispute seventh place as Murrayfield prepares to house a capacity crowd for the 15th consecutive international, while in Africa Kenya will host Zambia and Zimbabwe tackle Uganda in the Victoria Cup 2019.
This weekend's action begins with the first round of the Oceania Rugby Cup on Friday. Niue Island will play the Solomon Islands in their first international since 2011, while Papua New Guinea take on Nauru in a match that does not count towards the rankings as Nauru are not full members of World Rugby.
Two matches in Colombia on Sunday will round off the action as the Americas Rugby Challenge gets underway with Paraguay against Mexico before the hosts tackle the Cayman Islands.
ONE IN A MILLION | Scottish Rugby has surpassed the one million ticket mark for Scotland matches @BTMurrayfield in its run of 14 sell-out matches since 2017.— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) August 22, 2019
The holder of the 1,000,000th ticket was treated to VIP day this week with the national team.https://t.co/zHijQ00ZAh
SCOTLAND (8) v FRANCE (7)
Full-back Stuart Hogg is the only player to retain his place in starting line-up as Scotland coach Gregor Townsend opts to make wholesale changes in a bid to reverse last week's 32-3 defeat.
Hogg is joined in the back three by wingers Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour, while Pete Horne and Chris Harris are the centre combination. The half-backs are captain and scrum-half Greig Laidlaw and Finn Russell, who will equal the starting partnership appearances of Gary Armstrong and Craig Chalmers (32) and will then be three starts short of equalling the record-holding half-back partnership of Greig’s uncle Roy Laidlaw and fly-half John Rutherford.
At the opposite end of the international experience spectrum is Scarlets number eight Blade Thomson, who will make his long-awaited test debut in a back-row featuring Hamish Watson and Ryan Wilson for the first time this campaign. Fellow Glasgow Warrior Scott Cummings is promoted to the second-row after making his debut off the bench in Nice, alongside Sam Skinner, and behind a new front-row trio of Gordon Reid, Willem Nel and hooker George Turner, who starts his second test.
Hooker Grant Stewart could make his debut if called upon from the bench.
In contrast, Les Bleus coach Jacques Brunel has largely kept faith with the team that started the convincing win in Nice. Guilhem Guirado is handed the captaincy and comes into the side, as one of four changes, in place of Camille Chat at hooker, while Félix Lambey and Arthur Iturria are also included in place of Paul Gabrillagues and François Cros respectively.
The only change to the backline sees Thomas Ramos start at full-back in place of Maxime Médard, who has to settle for a place on the bench despite his two-try haul last weekend.
Prop Cyril Baille, second-row Romain Taofifenua and back-row Yacouba Camara are named among the replacements having been left out last week.
- France have 55 wins to Scotland's 36 with three draws since their first meeting in 1910
- Scotland have won their last two fixtures at home to Les Bleus
- France's last victory at Murrayfield came in March 2014 (19-17)
- A Scotland win will see the teams trade places for the second week running with Scotland up to seventh and France down to eighth
- A Scotland defeat by more than 15 points would leave them just nine-hundredths of a point ahead of ninth-placed Japan
- France cannot climb any higher than their present position of seventh
ENGLAND (5) v IRELAND (3)
Centres Owen Farrell, who captains the side, and Manu Tuilagi and scrum-half Ben Youngs start their first match of the series of RWC 2019 warm-up matches, while Jonny May makes his first appearance on the left wing with Joe Cokanasiga switching to the opposite side of the pitch. George Ford retains the fly-half jersey and Elliot Daly gets another run out at full-back.
Jamie George, Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler are named in the front row, George Kruis starts in the second row alongside Maro Itoje, and Tom Curry and Sam Underhill return from injury to join Billy Vunipola in the back row.
Mako Vunipola has been named on the replacements bench following his recovery from a long-term injury.
Fly-half Ross Byrne will make his first test start at Twickenham, having come off the bench twice during the November internationals in 2018. He has not featured since then but an injury to Joey Carbery against Italy a fortnight ago has given him an opportunity to push his case for a place in the Ireland squad for RWC 2019. Jack Carty provides cover from the bench.
Byrne's inclusion is one of a dozen changes of personnel and one positional to the team that started out against the Azzurri. Returning captain Rory Best is reunited in the front row with Cian Healy, who wins his 90th cap, and Tadhg Furlong. Recent debutant Jean Kleyn forms a new second-row pairing with Iain Henderson, while the back-row comprises Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander and Josh van der Flier, who dons the green jersey for the first time since his groin injury against France in March.
Conor Murray partners Byrne at half-back, while Garry Ringrose – one of the three players to retain their spot from the Italy match – renews his centre partnership with Bundee Aki. Rob Kearney and Jacob Stockdale, a try-scorer on his last visit to Twickenham, are restored to the back-three alongside Jordan Larmour.
- This is the 135th meeting between the teams with England currently leading 77-49 with eight draws
- England won 32-20 the last time the sides met in the Six Nations in Dublin
- Ireland won 24-15 on their last visit to Twickenham in the 2018 Six Nations
- England will regain fourth place from South Africa if they win
- They need to win by more than 15 points to overtake Ireland and move into third
- An Ireland victory will see them move to the top of the rankings for the first time in history, the second team to do so in as many weeks
ZIMBABWE (33) v UGANDA (42)
- Zimbabwe have won nine matches to Uganda’s five since the teams first met in 2002
- Uganda won 34-27 the last time they played each other in Harare in July 2016
- Zimbabwe have won all three matches in this year's Victoria Cup with victories against Kenya, Uganda and Zambia
- Uganda beat Zambia 38-22 last weekend after earlier defeats to Zimbabwe and Kenya
- Zimbabwe will overtake Kenya in the rankings in victory and move up to 32nd, regardless of the result between Kenya and Zambia
- Uganda will drop below the Ivory Coast in defeat as a minimum
- Uganda could climb by as many as seven places if they win by more than 15 points – eight if Kenya are also beaten
- They would be the higher ranked of the two teams in this scenario with Zimbabwe dropping by as many as six places
KENYA (32) v ZAMBIA (65)
- This is only the fifth meeting between the teams since the first international in 1976. Kenya lead the head-to-head 3-1
- Zambia’s only victory (26-10) came in Nairobi in 1980
- This will be the first time Kenya hosts a Victoria Cup match after a seven-year hiatus of the tournament
- Kenya cannot improve their rating or ranking position with victory, but could fall as many as eight places with defeat if other results go against them
- A Zambian victory would lift them two places – above UAE and Kazakhstan – and into 63rd
- A new high of 59th can be achieved if Zambia win by more than 15 points
AMERICAS RUGBY CHALLENGE
PARAGUAY (44) v MEXICO (51)
- Paraguay finished runners-up in last year's inaugural Americas Rugby Challenge, the sister tournament to the Americas Rugby Championship won by Argentina XV in March
- Paraguay won 45-36 when the sides met at the same stage of last year's competition
- Paraguay have lost their last four tests
- Mexico have conceded an average of 41 points in their last four tests
- Paraguay will climb above Ivory Coast and the Philippines with victory, but could go higher depending on other results
- Defeat is likely to see Paraguay slip outside of the world’s top 50 for the first time since the rankings began in October 2003
- Mexico will climb to a new all-time high of 45th if they win, possibly higher if other results go their way – making them the higher ranked of the two teams
- However, they could fall as low as 55th in defeat
COLOMBIA v CAYMAN ISLANDS
- Colombia are the defending Americas Rugby Challenge champions having completed a clean sweep of victories in 2018
- Colombia averaged just over 53 points per match in last year's tournament
- This is the first meeting between the sides
- The Cayman Islands' only previous test this year ended in a 58-14 win against Guyana
- That win saw the Cayman Islands qualify for the quadrangular Americas Rugby Challenge, which features two teams from each of the Rugby Americas North and Sudamérica Rugby regional associations
Oceania Rugby Cup Captains— Oceania Rugby (@oceaniarugby) August 22, 2019
The Oceania Rugby Cup kicks off tomorrow!
1.00PM SOL v NIU
3.30PM PNG v NAU
LIVESTREAM - Oceania Rugby Facebook Page
*All times are in Papua New Guinea Local Time#OceaniaCup #OceaniaRugby pic.twitter.com/U82nXzKojO
- A new high of 32nd is within Colombia’s grasp if Los Tucanes win and Zimbabwe and Kenya fail to do so in the Victoria Cup
- The Cayman Islands would be the higher ranked of the nations if they win by more than 15 points
- Such a victory, combined with favourable results elsewhere, makes it possible for the Cayman Islands to climb 11 places to a high of 39th
OCEANIA RUGBY CUP
SOLOMON ISLANDS (100) v NIUE ISLAND (98)
- Their only previous meeting in November 2011 ended in a 22-19 victory for the Solomon Islands
- This will be Niue Island’s first international match since 3 December, 2011 when they lost 36-7 to Papua New Guinea in the same competition
- The Solomon Islands need to win by more than 15 points to be the higher-ranked of the two teams
- Niue Island cannot climb any higher than their current position of 98th and will drop to 100th if beaten by more than 15 points
The World Rugby Men's Rankings update every Monday at 12 noon UK time.