With a full set of fixtures in the Guinness Six Nations and Rugby Europe Championship, there is plenty of scope for movement in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini as well as deciding where the silverware is going.
In the Six Nations, Ireland are in pole position as they hold a four-point lead over Les Bleus at the top of the standings. Andy Farrell’s Grand Slam-chasing team welcome England to their fortress-like Aviva Stadium home in the last of the three matches.
‘Super Saturday’ kicks off at Murrayfield with a game between Scotland and Italy and is followed by France against Wales in Paris. France need to win to stand any chance of overhauling Ireland and claiming back-to-back Six Nations titles as well as staying in contention for the number one spot in the rankings.
The first year of the new-look Rugby Europe Championship features two lower-ranking games in Amsterdam between Belgium and Poland and the Netherlands and Germany and two medal matches in the Spanish border city of Badajoz, with Romania and the hosts playing off for third place and Georgia and Portugal contesting the title decider.
So, what impact will these matches have on the rankings?
Three home wins in the Six Nations would have no effect because none of the teams can pick up any extra points to boost their rating due to the fact they have significantly better ratings than their opponents.
However, the picture gets more interesting if any of the visiting teams can spring a surprise.
In fact, it is possible for three different teams to be ranked at number one when the rankings are officially updated at 12 noon (GMT) on Monday.
If both teams win, Ireland will stay first and France second, in both the rankings and the Six Nations standings. Ireland can even afford to draw and still retain top spot as the loss of one rating point would still give them a superior rating.
France were number one for one week in July last year before Ireland replaced them. Ideally they need to win to have any chance of returning to those fleeting former glories.
Should Les Bleus close out the Six Nations with a win against Wales, they will go top if Ireland lose. However, a draw will be enough for Les Bleus if Ireland are beaten at home by more than 15 points.
Defeat for both teams – with Ireland losing by more than 15 points – will result in New Zealand becoming number one in the world. South Africa will also move up two places in that scenario, to second place.
All to play for at Murrayfield
Like Ireland and France, Scotland are not able to increase their rating this weekend even if they win well as they are at home to Italy who are nine places and 8.14 points worse off than them.
This means that even if Scotland beat the Azzurri, England can move above them if they manage to avoid defeat in Dublin as even a draw would be enough to bridge the narrow 0.65-point gap between the teams.
Scotland will end the weekend as the lowest-ranked of the Home Nations if they are beaten heavily by Italy and Wales spring a surprise on France in Paris.
A losing margin of more than 15 points will send Scotland tumbling down from fifth place to ninth while Italy will move up four places to 10th if that happens. The Azzurri haven’t been ranked in the world’s top 10 since March 2013.
In such an event, there would only be one place and 2.14 points separating the teams.
Meanwhile, fifth place is the highest that England can attain in victory as they are too far adrift of the top four to go any higher.
For Wales, a climb of two places to seventh is possible if they can beat France by more than 15 points and Scotland lose. A one-place gain for the second consecutive weekend is on the cards for a lesser win.
History in the making for Georgia
There will be an added bonus for Georgia if they manage to successfully retain their Rugby Europe Championship title against Rugby World Cup 2023 pool rivals Portugal in Sunday’s grand final.
A record-equalling high of 11th place possible if Italy fail to beat Scotland and they defeat Os Lobos the following day.
In this scenario, the Lelos will only be just over a point off the top 10 if the margin of victory is more than 15 points.
Even with a maximum of 2.70 points available to them for the most comprehensive of victories, it is not possible for Portugal to improve on 16th place. Nor can Os Lobos fall in defeat as the most they can lose is three-tenths of a point, which would still give them a better rating than the teams immediately below them.
Spain can, however, climb the rankings if they win their bronze medal match against Romania. Any form of win will lift Los Leones above the USA, while a win of more than 15 points will also see them leapfrog Uruguay into 17th place, which is where Romania could also end up if results fall favourably.
All four remaining teams in the Rugby Europe Championship can move up the rankings if they get a positive result, although a first win of the year for Belgium must be accompanied by a defeat for the Dutch for them to improve on 29th place.
The only game in the Rugby Europe Trophy between Ukraine and Sweden, played on neutral ground in Split, also counts towards the rankings.
However, the gap between themselves and Czechia is too big for Ukraine to make up any ground in the rankings.
Sweden’s fortunes, though, could change dramatically depending on the outcome with a five-place jump or a six-place fall possible.
If they win by more than 15 points, Sweden will replace Ukraine in 36th place and Ukraine will drop to 43rd, their lowest-ever ranking.