Belgium, some 18.20 points and 16 places below Portugal in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini, caused a huge shock on Saturday when they beat Os Lobos 10-6 in the opening round of the 2024 Men’s Rugby Europe Championship.
Both teams went into the match with new head coaches but it was Belgium’s Laurent Dossat not Daniel Hourcade who got off to a winning start despite Os Lobos being overwhelming favourites to build on the progress they had made at Rugby World Cup 2023.
All the points at the Stade Charles Tondreau in Mons came in the first half with Belgium scoring the only try of the game through fly-half Hugo De Francq.
Belgium’s first victory over Portugal since 2017 has moved them up three places in the rankings to 26th with Switzerland and the Netherlands dropping a place as a result, while Portugal have dropped three places to 16th.
The Netherlands were one kick away from emulating their neighbours in pulling off a shock win, but a last-gasp penalty attempt went wide and Spain were relieved to come away from Amsterdam with a 20-18 victory in Pablo Bouza’s first match in charge.
The 0.60 points that Spain picked up in victory was enough to move them above Romania and into 19th place, because the Oaks only received 0.12 points for their hard-fought 20-8 win over Poland in the fourth and final fixture of the weekend.
That leaves Spain on 63.46 points with Romania marginally behind them on 63.40 points.
Georgia, meanwhile, began life under new head coach Richard Cockerill by labouring to a 28-17 victory against Germany in Dessau.
The Lelos had become accustomed to winning matches against Germany by 50 points or more in the past, but were way below their best on this occasion, although Merab Sharikadze did mark his 100th test appearance with a try.
Georgia did not gain any additional points for the win but with Portugal’s total dropping below theirs, to 70.78 points compared to 72.68, the Lelos move up one place to 13th.
Ireland close the gap on Springboks
With a biggest winning margin of just 12 points the opening round of the Men’s Rugby Europe Championship was very competitive.
But there was only ever going to be one winner in Marseille on Friday night as the Men’s Six Nations kicked off with a 38-17 win for defending Grand Slam champions Ireland over 14-man France.
The 1.54 points that Ireland earned for the comprehensive victory has seen them reduce the gap between themselves and South Africa at the top of the rankings to 2.43 points.
Ireland and France stay in second and fourth, respectively, and it is also a case of as you were with the remaining four Six Nations teams after Saturday’s matches ended with narrow away wins for England and Scotland.
England remain in fifth place after being pushed all the way by Italy in Rome before securing a 27-24 victory, while Scotland are one place behind them in sixth after hanging on to win in Cardiff for the first time in 22 years.
Scotland surged into a 27-0 lead but Wales threatened to pull off the biggest comeback in Men’s Six Nations history in a stirring second-half performance. In the end, Wales fell one point short with the 27-26 defeat costing them 1.02 points.
While they remain in eighth place, Wales’ rating has now dropped below 80 points to 79.62 points.
Algeria beat Senegal 26-12 in the only other test played this weekend, resulting in a 10-place swing.
The victorious north African side have moved up five places to 70th with Tunisia dropping the same number of places to 61st.