The prize at stake for Italian rugby this weekend is a long-awaited return to the top 10 of the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini.

Having beaten Wales in the final round of the 2022 Six Nations, Italy expects a big performance from the Azzurri in the return fixture in Rome this Saturday.

And if Kieran Crowley’s rapidly-improving side can complete the double it will result in them moving up three places in the rankings to 10th, the first time they will have achieved such a lofty position in nearly a decade.

Wales would fall outside the top 10 in such an eventuality and could drop as low as 13th depending on the margin of defeat. Either way, Italy would be left as the higher-ranked of the two teams.

Contrary to some people’s perceptions this has been the case before, twice in 2007 (for one week in March and two weeks in August), and also on the first weekend in February in 2013.

Alternatively, a first Welsh victory of the campaign will result in them climbing above Japan and into ninth place, while Italy will fall below Fiji to 14th if they lose.

The second of Saturday’s fixtures, between England and France, will be significant in terms of the title race with both sides on 10 points, but not in terms of the rankings, in its own right at least.

Any chance either team has of moving up the rankings is dependent on what happens at Murrayfield just under 24 hours later when Scotland meet Grand Slam-chasing Ireland.

Any margin of victory or even a draw against Les Bleus would be enough for England to trade places with Scotland if Gregor Townsend’s team lose at home to Ireland the following day.

If both England and Scotland win, England will only become the higher ranked of the teams in fifth if their victory is by more than 15 points and Scotland fail to match that margin.

Even with a maximum of 2.26 points on offer for a home win, Scotland cannot improve on fifth place as South Africa, in fourth, are currently well over five points better off than them.

England are guaranteed to retain sixth place even if they suffer a heavy home loss to the French.

Top spot is Ireland's to lose

Ireland will retain top spot in the rankings – albeit by only 0.35 of a point – if they avoid defeat against Scotland in the final fixture of the weekend, even if France have already kept themselves in the title race by beating England.

Ireland’s lead could be extended to 3.09 points if France lose to England by more than 15 points at Twickenham on Saturday and they beat Scotland by at least as many points.

As a result of such an outcome, New Zealand and South Africa would move up one place, to second and third, with Les Bleus falling to fourth.

France, the other of the three sides to have picked up 10 points from their first three games, will replace Ireland as the world’s best team though if they win and Ireland lose. Ireland cannot drop any lower than second.

In a best-case scenario, Les Bleus can lead the rankings by 1.40 points.

Meanwhile, in the Rugby Europe Trophy, Ukraine need to beat Switzerland by more than 15 points to overtake them in the rankings.

It is not possible for Switzerland to climb the rankings in victory but a big defeat would cost them seven places.