France are up to third in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini for the first time in two years after defeating New Zealand 29-7 in front of a partisan home crowd in Castres.
Les Bleues opened the scoring through hooker Agathe Sochat after just four minutes, and Marie-Aurélie Castel added two more scores in addition to a penalty try.
It completed a disappointing end-of-year tour for New Zealand who had lost to France the week before in Pau as well as suffering back-to-back defeats to England on their return to test rugby after a two-year absence.
Also, the nine-point cushion the Rugby World Cup 2021 hosts once enjoyed over France has now been reduced to just 0.15 of a point.
Rankings leaders England did not gain any points for their record 89-0 win over USA in Worcester, but with the Black Ferns slipping further back – to the point where they are close to dropping out of the top two for the first time in history – their advantage has increased to 7.68 rating points.
The Red Roses’ 18th win in a row was their largest against the US Women’s Eagles and included another stunner from International Rugby Players Try of the Year nominee, Abby Dow.
Dow showed she is not the only England full-back with power and pace, doing more than a passable impression of men’s rookie Freddie Steward with her surging 65-metre run to the line when there was only four minutes on the clock.
The Red Roses were already on the scoreboard by then, thanks to a second-minute try from Vickii Cornborough and went on to score 15 in total as they made it four wins from four this November following earlier victories against New Zealand, twice, and Canada.
Canada ended their November campaign on a winning note, defeating Wales 24-7 in Cardiff, but the margin of France’s victory over New Zealand was sufficient to push them down to fourth in the rankings.
Ireland had never lost to Japan in four previous meetings but they were pushed all the way at The RDS in Dublin before securing a 15-12 win.
Ireland trailed 12-3 to the Sakura 15s at half-time but two tries from Ciara Griffin on her international swansong saw them pull through and get the win that keeps them seventh in the rankings – five places above Japan.