While England’s Red Roses continue to sit proudly at the top of the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini with an unchanged total of 96.78 points having enjoyed big wins against USA and Wales, some of their Rugby World Cup 2021 rivals enjoyed mixed fortunes in this respect in the build-up to the tournament.

Their closest challengers New Zealand may have been unable to overhaul England as the world’s highest-ranked team as they gear up to host the game’s flagship event but they did manage to pick up a fraction under one rating point over the course of the three-month period, from June to September, to cut the gap between the two teams to 8.20 points.

Seven heaven

Saturday’s 95-12 win over Japan, in which Portia Woodman scored seven tries, saw the Black Ferns sign off their preparations with six wins – three of the others coming against Australia with one each against USA and Canada – scoring 270 points and only conceding 47.

Canada started the pre-Rugby World Cup 2021 warm-ups in third place and they remain there albeit with a worse points total of 87.17. While Canada won five matches – against USA, Australia, Italy, Wales and Fiji – a 28-0 defeat to New Zealand proved costly from a rankings perspective.

France had chances to overhaul Canada but they are unchanged in fourth position, losing 1.90 points as a result of their second test defeat to Italy, who head to the Rugby World Cup in a record-equalling fifth position and an improved points total of 78.51.

USA and Australia swapped places with the Women’s Eagles taking sixth spot off the Wallaroos, who failed to win any of their five matches.

One of those defeats came at the hands of USA who also beat Scotland 21-17 in an equally tight encounter in Edinburgh. Losses to Canada, New Zealand and England did not negatively impact their score, which increased 1.74 points to 78.37.

Losing to England and Canada did not affect Wales’ position and they remain in ninth, but Scotland broke into the top 10 despite losing their only pre-RWC 2021 warm-up test to USA. That defeat cost Scotland just under three-quarters of a point but with Spain losing both their tests to South Africa, they now have a better overall points total than Las Leonas.

Big climbers

Having put a century of points on both Zimbabwe and Namibia to win the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup in June, South Africa maintained the momentum by sharing their two-test series with Japan before seeing off Spain on consecutive weekends in August.

With five wins from six, Stanley Raubenheimer’s side gained the most points of any team (5.11) from June to September and climbed two places to 13th.

Last but not least, Fiji will go to New Zealand still ranked 21 in the world.

In clinching the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship with a 31-24 win over the higher-ranked Samoa back in July, Fiji boosted their rating by 1.71 points to 54.33, leaving them just 0.39 of a point adrift of Germany.

Fiji would have entered the top 20 for the first time since the rankings were introduced in February 2016 had they held Canada to a draw in Friday’s send-off match in Suva but the North Americans prevailed 24-7.