The recent rivalry between Italy and Georgia could be set for another twist this weekend as the pool stage of the new-look Rugby Europe Championship comes to a conclusion.

Having secured bonus-point wins in their first two games, Georgia are already assured of their place in the semi-finals and a third win or even a draw against Spain in Torrelavega on Saturday guarantees them a home tie against the runner-up from Pool B.

But the Lelos have a big incentive to win in style because a margin of more than 15 points in their favour would also lift them above Italy in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini.

It would be seen as another step forward for the Lelos after their historic 28-19 victory over the Azzurri in Batumi in July.

With the Six Nations having a week off, Italy cannot improve their current rating of 75.83 points and the Lelos are primed to take advantage.

The Lelos can increase their rating by as much as three-quarters of a point, to 75.94 points overall, which would see them replace the Azzurri in 12th place.

Trading places

Italy and Georgia have become accustomed to swapping places in the rankings and this will be the sixth time it has happened since the last Rugby World Cup if the Lelos get the right result.

Georgia have won on their last five visits to Spain but on not one of those occasions has the scoreline been as convincing as they need this weekend.

The Lelos have lost three and drawn one of their 11 previous meetings away to Spain and in that time have only ever won by more than 15 points twice (55-11 in 2009 and 34-18 in 2002), so it will take some doing.

If Georgia win by a smaller margin they will still trail Italy by 0.14 of a point.

Spain will only lose 16th place if they are beaten and Romania win away to Portugal, or if Portugal beat the Oaks and one of the margins in the two matches is by more than 15 points.  

Los Leones cannot climb the rankings in victory as the gap between themselves and Tonga above them is too big.

Dramatic finish

If last year’s encounter is anything to go by, Portugal’s match against fellow Rugby World Cup 2023 qualifiers Romania in Lisbon on Sunday should be a real humdinger.

On that occasion, Os Lobos led 27-14 with six minutes to go but then proceeded to concede two converted tries in the final six minutes and lose by the narrowest of margins.

It was a hammer blow to their chances of qualifying for Rugby World Cup 2023 as Europe 2 with the Oaks claiming the automatic ticket instead.

Os Lobos, however, lifted themselves up to qualify as winners of the RWC 2023 Final Qualification Tournament in Dubai and will now join Romania in France later this year.

Portugal and Romania sit on top of Pool B with a maximum of 10 points after two bonus-point wins apiece over Belgium and Poland.

However, Os Lobos’ superior points difference means that a draw at Estádio Restelo will be enough for them to secure a home semi-final, against the losers of the Georgia versus Spain tie.

As far as the rankings are concerned, a win of any description against Romania will lift Portugal above Uruguay into 17th place.

Os Lobos will gain two places and climb to 16th if the victory is by more than 15 points and Spain also lose. A smaller margin would be sufficient if Spain lose to Georgia by more than 15 points.

Top 20 tussles

Meanwhile, Romania will become the higher-ranked of the two teams if their match against Portugal ends in a draw.

A Romania victory by more than 15 points combined with a defeat for Spain at home to Georgia will result in the Oaks moving up four places to 16th.

Further down the rankings, it is not possible for Belgium to improve on their current position of 26th as a victory away to Poland does not come with enough points for them to catch Russia.

Poland will fall between two and four places in defeat, depending on the scoreline.

A win for Poland will come with a one-place rise, but they could climb up to three places depending on the margin and other results.

Germany will move into the top 30 for the first time since February 2020 if they manage to beat the Netherlands, with 28th place the highest they can possibly get to.

The Netherlands will drop out of the top 30 for the first time since May 2017 in defeat and could fall as low as 33rd, a drop of four places.

But the Dutch are guaranteed to leapfrog Switzerland and move up at least one place to 28th in victory. And a two-place gain is possible if they win by more than 15 points and Belgium lose.