While Ireland are safe in their position as the number one team in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini the jockeying for positions below them will intensify this weekend.
With the final two Rugby Championship matches taking place and four Rugby World Cup 2023 warm-up tests also counting towards the rankings, the potential is there for teams to improve their standing.
Indeed, in three of the matches, it is possible for the lower-ranked away team (Fiji, Tonga and Italy) to move above their hosts in victory, depending on the margin.
SECOND PLACE IS FOR THE TAKING
New Zealand in third are the highest-ranked team in action this weekend and it will stay that way unless they lose to Australia by more than 15 points in Melbourne and South Africa also defeat Argentina, by any margin, in the other Rugby Championship fixture in Johannesburg.
Any form of win for the All Blacks in the first test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 16 years will be enough for them to wipe out the narrow gap between themselves and France and move up to second place at Les Bleus’ expense.
A Bledisloe Cup win by more than 15 points would close the gap on first-place Ireland to only 1.05 points while also ensuring they retain their Rugby Championship title in style.
Australia cannot slip any lower than their present position of eighth but there is the potential for them to climb by as many as three places to fifth if they win by a big enough margin and other results go their way.
FIFTH POSSIBLE FOR LOS PUMAS
With only two-hundredths of a point available to them in victory over Los Pumas – in what is head coach Jacques Nienaber’s last home test before his departure to Leinster – it is not possible for South Africa to improve on fourth place in their own right, they must hope that New Zealand drop rating points as well.
Argentina’s hold on seventh place is dependent on how Australia fare. A defeat for Los Pumas combined with a win for Australia will result in a fall to eighth – unless Scotland lose at home to Italy.
A rare win over the Springboks in South Africa – they have only managed one before – will send Argentina up to fifth, which is their highest position since June 2016, with the gap between the two teams down to less than a point if they win by more than 15 points.
ITALY EYE TOP 10 SPOT
Scotland cannot improve their rating or position in the rankings this weekend, but they could tumble to as low as eighth if their 12-match winning run against Italy comes to an end with a defeat and other results go against them.
A win for Italy at Murrayfield by more than 15 points will send the Azzurri back into the world’s top 10 for the first time in just over 10 years (June 2013) – if the Samoa v Fiji game ends in a draw or Fiji also win but fail to match that victory margin.
Having broken back into the top 10 last week, Samoa will continue to climb the rankings if they beat Fiji in Apia by more than 15 points. Such an outcome would see them climb above Wales into ninth place.
However, Fiji will become the higher-ranked of the two nations if they avenge last year’s World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup loss and defeat their Pacific rivals as Apia Park welcomes back test rugby for the first time since 2019. Fiji can climb to as high as 10th.
JAPAN ATTEMPT TO ARREST THE SLIDE
It is not possible for out-of-form Japan to improve on 12th place as even an emphatic win would leave them a fraction behind Georgia.
However, a home defeat to Tonga could result in them falling by as many as three places to 15th, depending on the margin and the outcome of other matches involving other teams in and around them in the rankings.
Japan have only won three tests since they reached the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals for the first time on home soil in 2019.
Tonga, who have an even win/loss record in 18 tests against Japan, can gain a maximum of one place in victory if they win by more than 15 points at the Hanazono Rugby Stadium.
The other RWC 2023 warm-up match features the two Americas qualifiers with Uruguay playing host to tournament debutants Chile.
With minimal gains available to them for victory over Chile, Uruguay cannot climb from their present position of 17th.
A win for Chile, though, would see them leapfrog Namibia, who play an Argentina XV in a non-capped match this weekend, and move into 21st – equalling their highest-ever position.