From Paris to Prague and Lisbon to London, there is a bumper programme of international rugby to look forward to on what could be a game-changing weekend for the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini.
With rating points riding on the outcome of 12 men’s and all six women’s matches the rankings could look very different when they are officially updated at 12 noon on Monday.
Currently the All Blacks are looking down on the rest of the teams having reclaimed top spot from South Africa following last Saturday’s record 54-16 win over Wales in the Autumn Nations Series in Cardiff.
As there are more than 20 rating points between themselves and Italy, the All Blacks will not get any reward if they beat the Azzurri in Rome this Saturday.
However, four tries in that match would see them set a new world record for tries scored by a leading nation in a calendar year. Ian Foster’s entertainers have racked up 89 tries and are closing in fast on Argentina’s all-time record of 92, set in 2003.
Boks aiming to break Cardiff jinx
Without any points to play for New Zealand will be replaced as the world’s number one regardless of how well they fare at the Stade Olimpico – a venue where Italy haven’t won since March 2013 – if the Springboks buck the recent trend of results in Cardiff.
Wales have beaten South Africa on their last four visits to the Principality Stadium but if the match goes the same way as the Rugby World Cup 2019 semi-final between the teams, and the Springboks win, the reigning world champions will leapfrog the All Blacks – if the margin is more than 15 points.
Defeat could send Wales to a record-equalling low of 10th depending on the outcome of the earlier kick-off in Dublin between Ireland and Japan.
A repeat of their RWC 2019 win over the Irish would send the Brave Blossoms shooting up the ranking by two places to eighth – as long as Wales and Argentina are also beaten.
Pumas hope to summon the spirit of 2007
Los Pumas travel to Paris to play a France side full of youthful exuberance.
The prospect of seeing Antoine Dupont lining up at scrum-half inside Mathieu Jalibert and Romain Ntamack has everyone drooling.
Argentina could, however, end up the higher-ranked of the two teams if they win at the Stade de France – a venue they have fond memories of from their win over France there in the opening match of RWC 2007.
For Scotland, a record-equalling high of fifth is in their sights if they can snap Australia’s five-game winning streak at Murrayfield on Sunday and other results fall in their favour.
England are safe in fourth unless they are victims of a massive upset at home to Tonga and Ireland do the business against Japan.
Elsewhere, big gains are possible for Spain and Rugby Europe Championship rivals Romania if they manage to beat higher-ranked opposition in Fiji and recent Americas 1 RWC 2023 qualifiers Uruguay, respectively.
A first win at this level for 21 years by more than 15 points would see the Dutch reach their highest-ever position of 22nd.
Big prizes at stake for revenge-seeking Black Ferns and USA
Having suffered a 43-12 defeat to England at Sandy Park last Sunday, the Black Ferns get the chance to set the record straight a week later at Franklin’s Gardens in Northampton.
If they are able to turn around the 31-point deficit and become the first team to beat the Red Roses on home soil in 24 matches, the Black Ferns would take over from their opponents at the top of the World Rugby Women’s Rankings.
New Zealand are safe in second place even if they lose by a big margin. The same applies to Canada in third as they look to achieve back-to-back wins over USA in the Pacific Four Series following Monday’s 15-9 win in Glendale.
Canada hold the upper hand in the overall head-to-record between the teams, but with very little to choose between the teams last time out, the US Women’s Eagles will have high hopes of redressing the balance. A joint-record high of fifth in the rankings would be theirs if they manage to buck the trend.
Regardless of whether they win or suffer a historic defeat to South Africa, France are guaranteed to finish the weekend behind Canada in fourth.
Meanwhile, Wales have nothing to gain and everything to lose as they begin a new era under new head coach Ioan Cunningham.
Wales cannot improve their position with victory as they can only gain a maximum of 0.31 rating points, but a win of more than 15 points for the Sakura 15s would see them become the highest-ranked of the two teams.