Wales up to ninth in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini
Your rankings round up from the weekend’s action in the Guinness Six Nations and Rugby Europe Trophy.
Ireland remain in the hunt for a fourth Grand Slam following a pulsating penultimate round of the men’s Six Nations 2023.
Johnny Sexton became the Championship’s joint-record points scorer at Murrayfield on Sunday as Ireland overcame injuries to key players to record a 22-7 defeat of Scotland.
That result means they head into next weekend’s final round four points ahead of France, who are the only team that can beat them to the title after their 53-10 win against England at Twickenham.
At the bottom of the standings, Wales secured their first win of Warren Gatland’s second spell in charge, beating Italy 29-17 in Rome.
With one eye on Rugby World Cup 2023, we’ve picked out five players who impressed during those matches.
France were imperious under the grey skies of Twickenham on Saturday and captain Antoine Dupont was the lynchpin of a record win for Les Bleus against England.
Alongside Thomas Ramos and Romain Ntamack, his tactical kicking kept France in the right areas and ensured England could rarely alleviate the pressure placed on them.
One highlight was a 50:22 struck from inside his own 10 metre line that ended rolling into touch around a similar distance from the England goal line. Incredible, even before you realise it was hit with his weaker left foot.
It was Dupont’s right boot that chipped the ball behind the England defence in the 57th minute, the bounce favouring Ntamack who fed Flament Thibaud to score. Moments later, his committed chase of a Ramos kick led to Charles Ollivon’s opportunist try.
At first glance, it appeared illogical that Mack Hansen had managed to stay inside the field of play while touching the ball down against Scotland at Murrayfield.
However, the winger had done exactly that, brilliantly dotting down milliseconds before Duhan van der Merwe bundled him into touch. The try restored Ireland’s lead and set them on course for a hard-fought victory in Edinburgh.
Hansen played a pivotal role in the defensive effort that repelled Scotland at the end of the first half and was influential in the moves that led to Ireland’s two tries after the break.
First, Hansen produced a brilliant catch and offload to set in motion the move that ultimately led to James Lowe scoring Ireland’s crucial second try. He then supplied the scoring pass for Jack Conan to notch their third.
Only on the pitch for 62 minutes, but Charles Ollivon had a huge impact on the outcome at Twickenham – taking his try tally against England to four in three matches.
His two tries on Saturday showcased different elements of his game and could not have been timed better for Les Bleus.
The first, a powerful close-range effort, gave his side an intimidating half-time lead. The second, meanwhile, was intelligent and instinctive as he pounced on the ball and sucked any momentum that England had built at the beginning of the second half.
In total, Ollivon made 59 metres from 12 carries and highlighted why he is viewed as one of the best flankers in the world.
Is there anything Josh van der Flier can’t do? During the second half of Ireland’s win against Scotland, the World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year 2022 was required to throw in at the lineout and did not look out of place.
Both starting hooker Dan Sheehan and his deputy Ronan Kelleher suffered injury at Murrayfield, which led to the unfamiliar sight of the flanker standing on the touchline with ball in hand at lineout time.
Van der Flier admitted after the match that he used to get in trouble as an academy player “for messing about in the gym, doing hooker throws” and revealed it was Ireland’s “rough plan” to use him in that capacity should anything happen to both match-day number twos.
He did not have to pack down at hooker, though, as replacement prop Cian Healy came on to take Kelleher’s place in the middle of the front-row early in the second half.
Veteran scrum-half Rhys Webb made the most of his first Six Nations start in six years, helping to inspire Wales to their maiden win of this year’s Championship.
Webb used all his experience during his 54 minutes on the Stadio Olimpico pitch, knowing when to kick and when to play with pace, and helped his side to make the most of their opportunities when they arrived.
It was his intelligent kick early in the first half that bounced perfectly for Rio Dyer to scoop up the ball and dot down next to the posts.
Webb lit up the match shortly before he departed it, making a smart break from the base of a ruck before popping a pass to Taulupe Faletau, who scored Wales’ fourth try.