Scotland are celebrating their highest-ever position in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini after they beat Wales on Welsh soil for the first time in 20 years.


Scotland edged the tightest of contests 20-18 thanks to tries at the start of each half from Coreen Grant and Rhona Lloyd and 10 points from the boot of Helen Nelson, to extend their winning run to seven matches and replace Wales in sixth in the rankings.


Bryan Easson’s team were guaranteed to move up one place in victory but Italy’s 48-0 home defeat to England 24 hours later enabled them to climb two places, above both Wales and the Azzurre.


With Scotland gaining 1.53 points, the WXV 2 champions have increased their rating to 75.90 points. However, a 5.71-point gap still exists between themselves and Australia above them in fifth, so they’ll need to pull off some more big wins before the Women’s Six Nations is out to stand any chance of further progress.


Wales fought back valiantly from 20-3 down following tries from Sisilia Tuipulotu and Alex Callender – and eight points from the reliable boot of Keira Bevan – to take the game right down to the wire. But Lleucu George was unable to match the accuracy of Bevan off the tee, missing the conversion that would have tied the scores.


Not only has it harmed Wales’ chances of finishing in the top half of the table and securing a return to WXV 1, but it has also proved costly in rankings terms as a draw would have maintained Wales’ position as the higher-ranked of the two teams. But now, having lost an identical amount of points as Scotland gained, Wales have dropped down to eighth with a rating of 75.14 points. 


France did not receive any points for their 38-17 win over last year’s wooden spoonists Ireland in Le Mans, nor did England, as they, too, were playing teams with a much lower rating. So, as a result, England remain top and France stay in third.


Both Les Bleues and the five-time defending champion Red Roses will be looking for better all-round, 80-minute performances when they take on Scotland and Wales respectively this coming weekend.


In the first match of the opening weekend, France laboured at times to see off an improved Ireland team that had conceded 53 points against them 12 months earlier in Cork.


All five of France’s tries scored by Pauline Bourdon Sansus, Marine Ménager, Madoussou Fall, Agathe Sochat and Élisa Riffonneau were converted, while Ireland grabbed two late consolation tries through Aoife Wafer and Aoife Dalton.


England, meanwhile, saw off Italy 48-0, despite playing the majority of the game with 14 players following Sarah Beckett’s red card.


It took England half an hour to breach Italy’s line through Hannah Botterman and they then doubled their lead when Abbie Ward went over.


Turning around 10-0 up, the Red Roses turned their dominance in every facet of the game into points in the second half, scoring tries through captain Marlie Packer, on the occasion of her 100th test, Ellie Kildunne, who bagged two, and Helena Rowland, Mackenzie Carson and Connie Powell.


While neither of those outcomes affected the rankings, the test result in Valladolid between Spain and South Africa led to some movement with the sides swapping places as a result of the Springbok Women’s 15-13 win.


South Africa came back from 13-5 down to lead with seconds remaining courtesy of a penalty try and Jacomina Cilliers penalty, but Spain still had a chance to win it at the death only for fly-half Amalia Argudo to miss with her third attempt at goal in the match.


The Springbok Women were left celebrating a fourth straight win against Las Leonas, who they now replace in 12th in the rankings.