Six matches count towards the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini on a weekend when half of the 20 teams competing at Rugby World Cup 2023 are in action.
The Summer Nations Series continues with England and Wales and France and Scotland reversing fixtures from last Saturday.
England welcome Wales to Twickenham as they look to bounce back from a disappointing 20-9 loss in Cardiff, while Scotland go to Paris looking to follow up their 25-21 comeback win at Murrayfield.
Elsewhere, Georgia and Portugal take to the field for the first time since they took part in the Rugby Europe Championship Grand Final in March, with the title-winning Lelos up against Romania in Tbilisi and Os Lobos re-enacting last November’s dramatic final RWC 2023 qualifier against USA in Faro.
Temuco is the venue for the first-ever meeting between Chile and Namibia, while Tonga’s game against Canada in Nuku'alofa on Thursday promises to set the tone nicely for another busy period as RWC 2023 looms ever closer.
Highs and lows
In terms of the rankings, the most significant matches could well be the two Summer Nations Series fixtures at the Stade de France and Twickenham.
Scotland’s prize for a second win over Les Bleus in as many weeks is a historic high of fourth – if the margin is more than 15 points.
France cannot pick up enough points in victory to improve on their current position of third but would fall below Scotland, to fifth, if well beaten.
It is not possible for England to move up from sixth place regardless of how well they do at home to Wales, but the visitors stand to be the higher-ranked of the two nations if they back up last week’s win in Cardiff with another positive result.
A win by any margin will send Wales up to seventh, above England and also Australia who are not in action this weekend.
If they can improve on last week’s margin by at least one more score, Wales will climb an additional place to sixth, with Argentina also overtaken.
A defeat of any description will send England tumbling down to their lowest all-time ranking of ninth, with just under a tenth of a point separating them from Fiji in 10th.
Can USA draw a line under Dubai?
Portugal’s encounter with USA in Faro is sure to be another keenly contested match given what happened nine months ago in the deciding match of the RWC 2023 Final Qualification Tournament.
Os Lobos scrum-half Samuel Marques kept his nerve back then to kick the penalty that levelled the scores at 16-16 and sent Os Lobos to RWC 2023 at USA’s expense on points difference.
Dolan gets it done.— USA Rugby (@USARugby) August 7, 2023
1️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ points and counting on an illustrious career 👏 pic.twitter.com/Et6wBm7SjN
Portugal cannot improve on 16th place if they achieve a first win against USA in four attempts. But USA would gain a place and continue their climb up the rankings under new head coach Scott Lawrence if they manage to win in the Algarve.
If North American rivals Canada also do them a favour and beat Tonga on Thursday, USA will go into the match knowing that victory over Portugal would be rewarded with a two-place gain and 15th place in the rankings.
Portugal could fall as many as three places if they lose and Romania pull off a rare win against Georgia in Tbilisi.
If Romania beat Georgia and there is a positive result one way or the other in the Portugal-USA encounter, the Oaks will move up one place, above the beaten side in Faro, to 18th.
A Romania win by more than 15 points would see them climb three places to 16th if Portugal and USA draw like the last time they met in Dubai.
With an 11.67-point gap between the teams before home weighting is factored in, Georgia will not get any points for beating Romania in their first RWC 2023 warm-up fixture.
Similarly, Tonga will not be rewarded if they put three straight defeats behind them and win their first test since November.
Canada will be guaranteed to go up two places to 21st if they beat Tonga by more than 15 points. A lesser margin of victory may be enough depending on the outcome of the final match of the weekend in Temuco.
Even with 1.85 points on the line for a big win, Namibia cannot improve on their present position of 21st with a victory over hosts Chile.
Chile will fall two places to 24th in defeat but will be the higher-ranked of the teams if they come out on top against the Welwitschias.