All Blacks have record in their sights
New Zealand have a world record equalling 17th straight Test win in their sights as they look to complete a series whitewash of England with victory in Hamilton on Saturday.
A third straight win over the Rugby World Cup 2015 hosts would see the All Blacks match the achievement of their countrymen back in 1965-69 and Nick Mallett’s all-conquering Springbok side of 1997-98.
But if England should turn the tide and become the first Test side to win on New Zealand soil since South Africa in 2009, they will rise above Australia into third place in the IRB World Rankings. New Zealand and South Africa will remain one and two in the world though regardless of results this weekend.
Ireland are safe in fifth place despite not having a match, as even a historic first win in South Africa would not be enough to promote Wales above them in the standings. Seventh-placed France will leapfrog Wales if they are able to win in Australia at the third attempt.
Vern Cotter’s Scotland will look to make it three wins out of three on their tour of the Americas with victory over Argentina in Cordoba on Friday. Narrow wins over USA and Canada place Scotland in eighth going into the weekend – a position they cannot improve upon.
The last time Argentina and Scotland met was at RWC 2011, when Scotland won 13-12 in wet and windy Wellington. Closely-fought matches are not uncommon between the two nations with the last 13 Tests settled by 12 points or less.
An Argentina win could see the Pumas rise as high as eighth. Defeat, though, will result in them slumping to a record low position of 12th – unless Italy turns the form book upside down and beats Japan.
Italy’s wretched run of eight straight defeats is in total contrast to the upsurge Japan are enjoying under the leadership of head coach Eddie Jones. Top 10 hunting Japan go into the match looking to take their winning run into double figures, their early successes over Canada and the USA in the Pacific Nations Cup 2014 coming on the back of a successful defence of their Asian 5 Nations title.
With so few rankings points between all the nations in eighth (Scotland 76.63) and Japan in 12th (75.07) a whole number of permutations are possible on the fringes of the top ten. Fiji (10th) and Samoa (9th) are only separated by 0.04 of a point, meaning local bragging rights will not be the only thing up for grabs when they play each other in the Pacific Nations Cup in Suva on Saturday.
The second Pacific Nations Cup match of the weekend sees USA entertain Canada in Sacramento, California. The Maple Leafs have won the last three matches between these border rivals and are unbeaten in seven. Win or lose neither side can go up or down in the rankings table.
No rankings points are at stake, just the IRB Nations title, when hosts Romania take on Emerging Ireland in a winner-takes-all finale in Bucharest on Sunday. However rankings points do count in the preceding match between Russia and Uruguay in what could easily be a dress rehearsal for the RWC 2015 Repechage Final in just over three months’ time, where the 20th and final qualifying place for next year’s tournament in England will be decided. Psychologically the result could be massive especially as a win for Uruguay would lift them above the Bears to 19th in the rankings table.
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