When France climbed to number one in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini for the first time in history in July last year their stay at the top only lasted one week.

Ireland replaced them back then and have stayed at the summit ever since, however, that could all change this weekend as the Six Nations resumes after one week off.

In addition to the current leaders Ireland, France and New Zealand could also be the world’s number-one team come Monday, but they would need a favour from Italy first.

The Azzurri welcome Grand Slam-chasing Ireland to Rome in the first of this weekend’s fixtures and the odds are stacked against a home win.

Not since they defeated Ireland 22-15 in March 2013 have Italy won at the Stadio Olimpico, a run of 27 tests.

Ireland have won their opening two matches and while they have shown improvement from previous campaigns, Italy have lost both of theirs.

But if Italy can buck the trend and beat Ireland, who won last year’s corresponding fixture 57-6, they will move into the rankings top 10 for the first time in almost a decade.

Tight at the top

If triumphant, ninth place is possible for the Azzurri depending on the margin of victory and the outcome of the match which follows on from the fixture in Rome,

With no points available to Ireland for any form of victory due to the 15.50 points difference between themselves and Italy, it is not possible for Andy Farrell’s team to increase their lead at the top of the rankings this weekend.

As long as Ireland aren’t beaten by Italy, they will stay at number one regardless of how well France fare in Sunday’s match against Scotland as a France win of more than 15 points and a draw in Rome would still leave Ireland 0.81 of a point better off than Les Bleus.

Victory for France combined with an Ireland defeat would not only throw the Six Nations title race wide open again but also see Les Bleus become the number one ranked nation for only the second time in history.

New Zealand could also end the weekend on top; however, it would need Ireland to be beaten by more than 15 points and for France to fail to beat Scotland for that to happen. If that scenario unfolds, South Africa will move up two places to second.

Cardiff cauldron

Following on from the encounter in Rome, all eyes will be on Cardiff as bottom-of-the-table Wales attempt to get their Six Nations 2023 campaign up and running against England.

Wales cannot improve on ninth place as even the most emphatic of wins would leave them trailing England by 1.08 points.

A defeat of that magnitude for England (more than 15 points) would see them match their all-time low of eighth.

An away win for England could see them reclaim fifth place from Scotland and become the higher-ranked of the two teams as they were before their Calcutta Cup defeat in round one.

For that to happen, England would need to beat Wales by more than 15 points and Scotland lose to France.

Finishing with Sunday’s match in Paris, Scotland cannot climb any higher than their present position of fifth as a win of more than 15 points in Paris would still leave them 0.31 of a point behind Les Bleus, who’ll drop to fourth if that occurs.