With all bar two of the leading 20 nations in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini involved in test action, there should be no shortage of talking points this weekend.

Having won last Saturday, SANZAAR nations, South Africa New Zealand, Australia and Argentina have an opportunity to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in their respective three-test series against Six Nations quartet, Wales, Ireland, England and Scotland, while France could wrap up a 2-0 series win over Japan on what could be a historic weekend for Les Bleus.

Asides from the heavyweight southern v northern hemisphere encounters, one more place at Rugby World Cup 2023 will be decided on Saturday when Namibia take on Kenya in the final of the Rugby Africa Cup 2022. The successful team in Aix-en-Provence will return to France next year as Africa 1.

Also in qualifying, Chile and USA will be a step closer to booking their ticket to France as Americas 2 following the conclusion of the first leg of their play-off in Santiago, while Korea and Hong Kong go head-to-head for the Asia Rugby Championship 2022 title in Incheon. The winner of that game will play off against Tonga later this month for the right to go to France as Asia/Pacific 1.

The World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup 2022 also continues on Saturday with a mouth-watering encounter between Samoa and Tonga in Lautoka, Fiji.

With Canada also welcoming Spain to their country for the first time, Romania making a rare trip to Uruguay and Georgia and Italy renewing one of the newest rivalries in test rugby, a lot of rating points will be available as teams jockey for position in the world rankings ahead.

Tight at the top

Less than 1.5 points cover the world’s top three, from leaders South Africa to New Zealand in second and France in third, with Ireland waiting in the wings to stake a claim to be number one.

South Africa’s fate is in their own hands, however, as a second win over Wales in as many weeks would assure the Springboks of the lead for at least one more week.

If Wales hold South Africa to a draw, which they came so close to doing in losing 32-29 at Loftus Versveld, New Zealand will move to the top of the rankings with victory over Ireland in Dunedin.

For Ireland to move to the top for the first time since Rugby World Cup 2019, they need to beat the All Blacks by over 15 points – some feat after their 42-19 reverse last weekend – and also hope for a Wales win.

When it comes to France’s chances, things get a little more complicated because a Les Bleus win over Japan will only result in them being the world’s number one team for the first time if combined with heavy defeats for the Springboks and New Zealand.

Whether France make history that way or not, a win over Japan would still see them enter the record books as it will be their 10th in a row, matching their all-time best, set between April 1931 and October 1937.

Alternatively, France will surrender third place to Ireland if they lose by more than 15 points, even if the Irish are beaten by the same margin in Dunedin. In such a scenario, Japan will climb above a beaten Wales into ninth place.

Wales can climb two places up to seventh, however, if they beat the Springboks on South African soil at the 12th time of asking and the result between Argentina and Scotland falls in their favour.

Trading places

England will swap places with Australia again and move up to fifth if they overturn last week’s 30-28 defeat and beat the Wallabies in Brisbane. Australia cannot fall lower than sixth irrespective of the outcome and results elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Scotland will become the higher-ranked of the two teams again if they avoid defeat in Argentina, regaining the place they lost to Los Pumas after the first test in Jujuy ended 26-18 in the home side’s favour.

If Wales and Japan shock South Africa and France, a defeat for Scotland will see them slip to 10th, their lowest position since the eve of Rugby World Cup 2015.

Italy cannot improve on their current position of 12th even if they maintain their 100 per cent win record against Georgia. Georgia will take their place if victorious in Batumi. 

Rating points are also on the line when Samoa meet Tonga in the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup 2022.

Outside of the Top 20, plenty of different permutations are possible but the one that immediately catches the eye involves Chile.

The Rugby World Cup 2023 hopefuls will climb to an all-time high of 21st with a win against the USA, depending on the scoreline and the results of other teams around them in the rankings.

It could also be a big weekend for Korea, not just in terms of their Rugby World Cup dreams but also from a ranking perspective.

If they book a date with Tonga by beating Hong Kong, Korea could jump three places, but fall by the same amount depending on the margin and the results of other teams around them.