For many of the world’s leading teams, with the exception of Wales, Australia, England and South Africa, this weekend’s fixtures will be the last they play in 2022.
It represents a chance to sign off the year on a high and also improve their World Rugby Men’s Ranking powered by Capgemini leading into a big Rugby World Cup year.
Ireland will hope their standing as the world’s best team remains intact beyond the latest round of the Autumn Nations Series, but that status continues to be under threat, with France, New Zealand and South Africa all capable of toppling them if they slip up at home to Australia on Saturday.
France will assume top spot if they beat Japan, extending their record winning run to 13 matches in the process, and Ireland fail to beat Australia – unless New Zealand also defeat England by more than 15 points. That scenario will see the All Blacks return to number one and Ireland drop to third.
Another permutation that works in the All Blacks’ favour is if they beat England in the first meeting of the teams since the RWC 2019 semi-final and Ireland fail to beat Australia and France also lose to Japan,
South Africa will head to Genova wary of an Italian side enjoying their best run in a number of years. However, if they can get the job done and come away with a victory, the reigning world champions could end up top of the pile.
To achieve first place, the Springboks must win by more than 15 points and hope that France, New Zealand and Ireland are all beaten – the latter by more than 15 points – to get there though.
Farrell brings up his century
England will climb above South Africa if they mark Owen Farrell’s 100th cap for his country with a victory if it comes in tandem with a Springboks loss and one of the scorelines has a margin of more than 15 points.
On the flip side, a heavy defeat at the hands at the All Blacks, in what is Brodie Retallick’s 100th test, and similarly big away wins for Australia and Argentina, against Ireland and Scotland respectively, will send England down to seventh, a position they haven’t occupied since February 2016, at the start of Eddie Jones’ reign.
Italy are definitely looking up not down after the moment with last weekend’s maiden win over the Wallabies the latest example of their progress under Kieran Crowley.
Italy have only beaten South Africa once before, in 2016, but they will believe anything is possible after their heroics in Genova.
A place in the Top 10 for the first time since June 2013 will be theirs for the taking if they can achieve another landmark result.
The Azzurri could even equal their highest-ever ranking of eighth – a position they last occupied briefly in August 2007 – if they win by more than 15 points and Australia, Scotland and Wales all lose by the same margin.
As for Japan, they will back themselves to get a result against France having drawn when they last played Les Bleus on French soil in November 2017.
Japan can jump two places to eighth if they beat France, depending on the results for Wales and Scotland.
In Edinburgh, Scotland must beat Argentina by more than 15 points to be the higher-ranked of the two nations as a smaller margin will still leave them 0.05 rating points behind Los Pumas
A climb to sixth is possible for Scotland depending on the margin and other results, while Argentina can climb to fifth if they win by more than 15 points and England lose at home to the All Blacks on the same day.
In addition to beating Georgia, Wales need Scotland do them a favour and beat Argentina for them to have any chance of improving on seventh place.
D-day in Dublin for Australia
Australia’s task is a daunting one this weekend, not only do Dave Rennie’s side take on the world’s number one team in Ireland, but they’re also playing at a venue that has proved impregnable in recent years.
Ireland have won their last 11 tests at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin and if Australia fail to halt that run, and other results go against them, they could equal their lowest-ever ranking of ninth.
Meanwhile, Georgia travel to Cardiff, a venue where they have run Wales close before, with the potential to match their previous best ranking of 11th.
The impressive Stadionul National Arcul de Triumf in Bucharest is once more the setting for a doubleheader as the host nation take on Samoa and Tonga play Uruguay, in what is the first-ever meeting between the teams.
With the teams so tightly grouped together in the rankings changes to the rankings appear inevitable.
As the highest-ranked of the four nations, Samoa have the most to lose, potentially as many as two places, but they go into their match with the Oaks on a high after beating Georgia 20-19.
Should Romania manage what Georgia failed to do and get the better of their Pacific Island opponents, Andy Robinson’s team could jump as many as four places, depending on the margin of the victory.
Los Teros could fall three places if beaten by Tonga on neutral soil in Bucharest but will be the higher-ranked of the two nations if they win by more than 15 points.
In Dubai, the Final Qualification Tournament comes to a conclusion when the USA take on Portugal.
The teams are not only competing for the 20th and final ticket to Rugby World Cup 2023 but also the prize of being the highest-ranked of the two teams. For both, the lofty heights of 16th place are within their reach.