The eyes of the rugby world will be on Twickenham this Saturday as unbeaten England and France meet in what promises to be an epic TikTok Women’s Six Nations 2023 Grand Slam decider.
With more than 53,000 tickets sold, a world record crowd for a women’s rugby match will watch the crunch fixture which will not only decide the destiny of the trophy but could also have a big impact on the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini.
For the first time in this TikTok Women’s Six Nations, England and France can improve their rating with victory, which means the Red Roses will either extend their lead at the top of the rankings (to a maximum of 1.49 points) or concede first place to New Zealand.
England have sat atop the rankings since November 2020 but will be replaced by the Black Ferns if they are beaten by Les Bleues for the first time since March 2018.
In this instance, France would stay third but second place behind New Zealand is theirs for the taking if the margin at Twickenham is more than 15 points in their favour.
That would make Les Bleues the higher-ranked of the two teams with England dropping down to a record-equalling low of third, a position they last occupied in November 2016.
A top three of New Zealand, France and England – in that order – has only happened once before since the rankings were introduced in February 2016, for a solitary week in July of that inaugural year.
Wales hoping to hit sixth
With the Women’s Six Nations trophy on the line in the first of Saturday’s three matches, it would be easy for the remaining two games between Italy and Wales and Scotland and Ireland to be overshadowed.
However, with teams jockeying for position in the new WXV global competition structure and valuable rating points up for grabs, there is still plenty at stake in games that have been tight historically.
Scotland have won 16 matches to Ireland’s 15 in their head-to-head and there has been less than a try between the teams in the last three meetings.
Italy against Wales is another very tough one to call as the average winning margin over the last 10 match-ups is just seven points.
The game in Parma is the second of Saturday’s fixtures and will determine whether Wales secure a place alongside England and France in WXV 1, as one of the top three teams from this year’s Women’s Six Nations.
Wales only need one point to guarantee third place and they could even afford to leave Parma without any points if Scotland fail to secure not only a bonus-point win over Ireland but also overturn a -67 points differential between the teams.
Italy’s loss to Scotland means the best they can hope for is a place in WXV 2 by finishing fourth in the standings. They currently lie fifth on four points, one behind Scotland but with a superior points difference (+46).
In terms of the rankings, it could be a very significant weekend for Wales. Ioan Cunningham’s side have a new all-time high of sixth within their grasp if they can beat the Azzurre by more than 15 points. That said, given the closeness of recent scorelines, it will take some doing.
Italy cannot regain the fifth place in the rankings they lost following their defeat in Scotland, even if they beat Wales by more than 15 points.
A draw would see Italy slip below the USA into sixth, while defeat would result in Wales becoming the higher-ranked of the two teams.
Ireland face prospect of record low
Ninth place in the rankings is on the line in Edinburgh when Scotland host Ireland, a match that will also determine which of the teams will finish bottom of the Women’s Six Nations standings and thus enter WXV 3.
Scotland moved back into the rankings top 10 after beating Italy 29-21 in round four, but would need to beat Ireland by more than 15 points to climb any higher.
Such a win would see Scotland become the higher ranked of the two teams in ninth with Ireland dropping to 10th, equalling their lowest ever ranking. They last sat 10th in February 2020.
Ireland can only move up the rankings in victory if they win by more than 15 points and Italy do the same against Wales. This scenario would leave Ireland eighth, one place and 0.09 of a point better off than Wales.
A bonus-point win would almost certainly see Scotland finish fourth and confirm their place in WXV 2. This would be Scotland’s highest placing in the Championship since 2017.
Ireland must win with a bonus point and hope Italy lose without any bonus points against Wales to avoid finishing bottom, given the -77 points difference between the two teams.
Whichever team finishes fifth in the standings will face a play-off against Rugby Europe Women’s Championship 2023 winners Spain to determine which nation goes into WXV 2 and WXV 3.
Away from the Women’s Six Nations, Sweden can overtake Hong Kong China in the rankings if victorious in the first meeting between the teams in Amsterdam on Monday.
The match and another test against the Netherlands on 6 May will serve as vital preparation for Hong Kong China’s upcoming fixtures in the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship 2023, their regional qualifier for WXV.