Before their impending top-of-the-table encounter in front of a world-record crowd of over 50,000 at Twickenham Stadium on 29 April, England and France have other business to attend to this weekend in the TikTok Women’s Six Nations 2023.
The sides positioned first and third in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini go into the fourth round of fixtures with their winning starts to the Championship on the line.
England travel to Cork to take on an Ireland side desperate to open their account for the Championship, while France are up against Wales at the Stade des Alpes in Grenoble.
The Red Roses currently sit on top of the Women’s Six Nations standings having claimed a maximum of 15 points from wins over Scotland (58-7), Italy (68-5) and Wales (59-3), while France are just one point behind them in second place having beaten Italy (22-12) – without a bonus point – and Ireland (53-3) and Scotland (55-0).
Italy, meanwhile, will be hoping to build on their first win of the Championship (24-7 v Ireland) as they make the trip to Edinburgh face Scotland, who are bottom of the table on points difference from Ireland.
Black Ferns watch on with interest
In terms of the rankings, the fact that England and France have a significantly better rating than their opponents means that a win for the Red Roses and Les Bleues will not have any impact. However, wins for the two unfancied teams will result in changes.
Should England’s record 22-game winning run in the Championship come to an end in Cork, they will be toppled from top spot in the rankings and replaced by New Zealand.
A win for Ireland will come with raised eyebrows but not a rise – unless the winning margin is more than 15 points and Wales lose against France. In this eventuality, Ireland will replace Wales in eighth place.
Ireland have achieved such a margin against England once before when winning 25-0 in the Grand Slam-winning year of 2013.
Wales have a mountain to climb
As with England, France are playing opponents with a significantly worse rating before home advantage is even factored in and, as a result, they cannot gain any points or places in the rankings this weekend.
While France will remain in third place regardless of the outcome, Wales will move above the USA into seventh if they manage something they have never achieved before and beat Les Bleues by more than 15 points.
An all-time high of sixth is theirs for the taking if this happens – but only if the result is combined with a defeat for Italy in Scotland.
Big wins for Scotland and Wales will see Italy slip three places to eighth with Scotland moving into the top 10.
With a maximum of a third of a point on offer for an Italian win and 5.98 points between themselves and Canada in fourth above them, it is not possible for the Azzurre to improve on fifth place this weekend.
Scotland, meanwhile, are safe in 11th place even if Italy extend their winning run in this fixture to seven matches.