England have led the rest of the field in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini since they defeated France at the end of November 2020.

A 33-10 victory in Grenoble took them above New Zealand that day and into number one for the first time since August 2017.

The Red Roses have remained there for the best part of two years but with double rating points being awarded at Rugby World Cup 2021, France have an opportunity to finally knock them off their perch.

France take on England in the second round of the tournament knowing that a win by more than 15 points would see them occupy the top spot for the first time in their history and relegate England to second place in the process.

However, France have only ever won by such a margin once before – 19-0 in 1999 – and are up against a rampant England side that goes into the match on the back of a record 26-game winning run.

Plus, all four previous Rugby World Cup meetings have gone the way of England and the Red Roses have only lost once to France in the last 14 meetings, so Les Bleues really are up against it.

Beat England by fewer than 16 points and France would still achieve a historic high of second – but only if New Zealand fail to see off Wales.

New Zealand are unable to improve their rating in victory due to the 15.31 points between them and Wales in the rankings before home weighting is factored in.

But the Black Ferns could fall as low as fourth if they lose and France and Canada both win. A win for Wales would lift them to sixth, even if USA are victorious against Japan.

Italy and Canada in top-four battle

Italy are Canada’s opponent this weekend with both teams looking to build on their opening rounds victories over USA and South Africa, respectively.

At present, Canada are two places and over six points better off than Italy in third, but if the Azzurre win by a sufficient margin they would become the higher-ranked of the two teams.

A record high of fourth is within their grasp, with third place even possible if the Black Ferns also lose badly, while Canada face the danger of dropping out of the top four for the first time since June 2016.

In the opening match of the second weekend, Scotland take on Australia with both teams looking to register their first wins of the tournament following battling defeats to Wales and New Zealand.

Scotland will climb one place to ninth if they beat Australia, something they have failed to do in two previous attempts, and become the higher ranked of the two nations as defeat would see the Wallaroos drop to a new low of 10th

Australia could drop out of the top 10 for the first time since the rankings were introduced in February 2016, if they lose by more than 15 points and Japan beat USA.

On the flip side, the Wallaroos will climb one place to sixth if they win and USA fail to beat Japan

A defeat by more than 15 points, combined with a South Africa victory over Fiji and Japan avoiding defeat against USA, will see Scotland fall to a new all-time low of 13th.

Top 10 the aim for Japan

USA and Japan are unfamiliar opponents with their only previous meeting coming in the Scottish Borders 28 years ago at Rugby World Cup 1994.

The Women’s Eagles were defending world champions at the time and ran out winners by 121-0.

Such a scoreline looks implausible now given that Japan are on the verge of breaking into the world’s top 10 for the first time.

A place in the top 10 will be theirs if they put the record straight and beat USA and Scotland fail to get a positive result against Australia.

USA could fall as low as 10th if beaten by more than 15 points, falling below Japan if that is the case.

Significant changes and milestones are also possible further down the rankings.

A first-ever Rugby World Cup victory will see Fijiana jump five places to a new high of 16th with another place possible if the margin is by more than 15 points

South Africa will fall two places to 13th if they fail to beat Fiji, even if Japan also fail to win.

The Springbok Women cannot improve their rating due to the 14.17 points difference between the sides.