Remarkably, after a weekend where 12 games were played, there were only a couple of positional changes to the top 20 of the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini, despite most of the leading teams being in action.

Emphatic wins for New Zealand, England and Ireland against teams with much lower ratings did not come with any reward but the All Blacks still stay top as South Africa failed to beat Wales by the margin required to overhaul them as the world’s number one team.

The Springboks needed to win in Cardiff by more than 15 points to reclaim the position they last held until a fortnight ago but in an historically low-scoring fixture and on a wet day in Cardiff, this never looked likely. Instead, after Handré Pollard and Dan Biggar had traded penalties, and man-of-the-match Frans Steyn booted one over from 54 metres, the match was ultimately decided by a 73rd- minute try for replacement hooker Malcolm Marx.

Two-tenths of a rating point came with the victory to leave the Springboks 0.03 of a point behind the All Blacks, who won 47-9 against a stout Italian side that can be proud of their start under new head coach Kieran Crowley.

Meanwhile, England cruised to a 69-3 win over Tonga at Twickenham to remain in fourth place. The gap between themselves and Australia in third has narrowed, however, following the Wallabies’ 15-13 loss to Scotland on Sunday. Scotland stay seventh.

Oaks stand tall

Around the same time in Verona, Romania pulled off the result of the weekend with a 29-14 win over in-form Uruguay that saw them finish the match as the higher-ranked side.

Rugby World Cup 2023 Americas 1 qualifier Uruguay struggled to recapture the form they showed in that series against USA when confronted by an Oaks side that had put in a hugely promising performance against Argentina in July.

Romania flanker Florian Rosu and centre Hinckley Vaovasa scored tries at the start of each half and Ionel Melinte kicked 19 points in a game where Los Teros failed to score a single second-half point.

Romania will go into their final game of the Rugby Europe Championship 2021 against Netherland next weekend two places higher up in the rankings in 16th place while Uruguay are down to 17th.

Further up the rankings, Ireland stay fifth after a convincing 60-5 win at home to Japan and France are just under three-quarters of a point behind them in sixth after seeing off Argentina 29-20 in Paris in Saturday's late kick-off.

Fiji survived a scare against Spain in Madrid to strengthen their position in 11th place and close the gap on Japan in 10th. Spain led 13-12 at half-time but a dominant second-half performance brought the Islanders 31 unanswered points and a 43-13 win.

Meanwhile, Portugal’s momentum from a successful Rugby Europe Championship 2021 campaign continued with a first-ever win over Canada in the fifth meeting between the sides. A late try from Manuel Cardoso Pinto settled the match, 20-17.

Os Lobos remain in 19th place and Canada are unchanged in 23rd, one place above Namibia who profited from the Netherlands’ 35-8 home defeat to Russia in their third match of Rugby Europe Championship 2021.

The Dutch lost 1.7 points as a result of their third defeat of the campaign and that has dropped them down to 25th with the Welwitschias moving up one place as a result.

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