Test heavyweights measure up rankings gains
With 18 of the world’s top 20 sides in action this weekend, there could be a reshuffle at the top when the IRB World Rankings are next announced on Monday.
The fixtures see the June Test window take full flight, with some captivating clashes in store as the southern hemisphere heavyweights host their European counterparts. France and Spain the only top 20 teams not in action.
The IRB World Rankings take on added significance this year because the Pool Allocation Draw for Rugby World Cup 2015 will use them to rank teams into brackets of four at the end of the year.
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Reigning World Champions New Zealand are assured of retaining their number one position, regardless of the result against Ireland. However, defeat to the Irish could see the chasing pack draw to within two rating points.
If Australia beat Wales and South Africa see off England, the southern hemisphere trio will retain the top three spots.
However, Scotland’s gritty win over Australia in the driving rain of Newcastle could be a fillip for the other tourists.
The Scots’ success on Australia’s Central Coast, in conditions more befitting a British winter, will guarantee them at least a one-place rise from 12th.
Top three in danger
The scope for major rises or falls is limited at the top end of the IRB World Rankings, but a big win for Wales over Australia in Brisbane could propel them from fifth to second - their highest ever position.
Equally, an England victory over the Springboks on South African soil could upset the southern hemisphere order and push Stuart Lancaster's side up to second.
Even narrow wins for England and Wales would see them slot in at second and third, behind the All Blacks.
Pacific Nations Cup stages rankings battle
Scotland will doubtless also be taking a keen interest in events in Tokyo, where Fiji play Samoa and Japan take on Tonga in the IRB Pacific Nations Cup.
Japan’s defeat by Fiji early in the week consigns them to a fall in the rankings, regardless of how they perform against Tonga on Sunday. From 14th place, Japan will drop to 15th or 16th depending on that result.
Samoa, winners against Tonga early in the week, could finish the week in ninth place if they continue their good form against Fiji.
However, a Fiji win could see them rise to from 16th to 13th and leave Scotland as high as ninth.
Americas trio line up strong opposition
Fresh from their second place finish in the South American Championship, Uruguay have the opportunity to gain further ground when they face Romania in the IRB Nations Cup in Bucharest. A win for the South Americans would see the teams swap places at 18th and 19th.
Canada also have plenty at stake against the USA - defeat could see them drop three places from 13th to finish just one in front of their opponents.
- The IRB World Rankings are published every Monday at midday UK time.