Two teams improved their position in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini as a result of the three test matches played this weekend.

Ireland’s 57-22 win over Japan in Shizuoka lifts them above Italy and into sixth place, while South Africa have matched their previous high of 11th following a 37-14 win over Spain in Potchefstroom.

In the other fixture, New Zealand beat Australia 52-5 to retain the O’Reilly Cup. Ruahei Demant and Ayesha Leti-I’iga scored a brace of tries apiece while Joanah Ngan-Woo, Amy du Plessis, Kendra Cocksedge and Luka Connor also got their names on the scoresheet.

It was their 21st consecutive win against the Wallaroos and sets them up nicely for next weekend’s return encounter in Adelaide and also the Rugby World Cup 2021 Pool A match between the teams at Eden Park in Auckland on 8 October.

However, the win did not come with any reward in the rankings, with the Black Ferns still 7.20 points behind the world ‘s number one team, England, in second place. Australia remain in eighth place with an unchanged points total.

Ireland hero Jones joins select group

Meanwhile, Ireland came back from 15-0 down to maintain their winning record against Japan with their biggest-ever comeback win.

Ireland have now won all six encounters dating back to 1994 but this was the most points they have scored in a match against the Sakura Fifteen.

Neve Jones joined Lynne Cantwell, Sophie Spence and Alison Miller as the only Irish women to score a test hat-trick, while six others crossed the line, including debutants Aoife Dalton and Méabh Deely.

Aoife Doyle, Chloe Pearse, Molly Scuffil-McCabe and Emma Hooban were the other try-scorers for Ireland and Dannah O’Brien landed six conversions.

The 0.41 of a point gained in victory takes Ireland up to sixth place and 76.73 points overall, while Japan remain 13th but with a reduced total of 65.61 points.

Second-half surge sees South Africa home

The test between South Africa and Spain followed a similar pattern in that the Springbok Women had to recover from a sluggish start to overwhelm their opponents.

On Friday at Fanie du Toit Stadium in Potchefstroom, the Springbok Women scored 27 unanswered points in the second half to beat Spain 37-14 after trailing 14-10 at the break.

Five different players scored tries for the home side – Roseline Botes, Sinazo Mcatshulwa, Nomawethu Mabenge, Nadine Roos and Lusanda Dumke – as they backed up their 44-5 win in Johannesburg the week before.

Libbie Janse van Rensburg kicked 12 points from three conversions, a penalty and a drop goal and Zenay Jordaan also contributed three points from a penalty.

For Spain, Alba Capell scored a try, converted by Inés Bueso-Inchausti, with the remainder of their points coming via a penalty try.

The win was South Africa’s fifth in six matches this year and gives them real momentum heading into Rugby World Cup 2021.

It also lifts them up to their joint highest ranking of 11th, taking them above Spain in the process.

South Africa are now on 68.50 points, three-hundredths of a point better off than Las Leonas in 12th.

Photo credit: INPHO/Akito Iwamoto