Plenty to gain and lose for Wales in rankings
Wales have not experienced that winning feeling since Sam Warburton held aloft the RBS 6 Nations trophy last March, but if they can end a run of seven successive defeats with victory over Ireland on Saturday then a climb to sixth in the IRB World Rankings is possible.
The defending champions currently lie ninth, having slipped out of the second band of seeds for last month’s Rugby World Cup 2015 Pool Allocation Draw after a last-gasp loss to the Wallabies, three places below their visitors to the Millennium Stadium in the first Six Nations match of 2013.
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That much-craved for victory would lift Wales above Samoa and Argentina into seventh place, but if the winning margin is more than 15 points then the Dragons would also climb above Ireland. On the flip side, if Wales lose and Scotland beat England then they would slip one place to 10th.
It could get even worse for Wales, because if Italy were to also repeat their shock win over France when the sides last met in Rome in 2011, then the Dragons would slump to 11th – their lowest ever position since the rankings were introduced in October 2003.
France will lose their position as the highest ranked northern hemisphere team if Italy win on Sunday, a scenario which would see an England team victorious over Scotland at Twickenham the previous day climb above them.
Les Bleus cannot improve on fourth, although an emphatic win over their RWC 2015 Pool D opponents will reduce their deficit to Australia to a little over one rating point. Their cushion over England would also grow as victory over 12th ranked Scotland would have no impact on their rating points.
If Scotland can end a 30-year wait for victory over England at Twickenham then Scott Johnson’s men could climb as many as five places to seventh, depending on the margin of victory over the Auld Enemy and other results.
England can only fall from fifth spot if they lose to Scotland by more than 15 points, because a smaller margin of victory would mean an Ireland team running riot at the Millennium Stadium could only close to within one hundredth of the RWC 2015 hosts.
Italy will fall to 12th with defeat at Stadio Olimpico as a result of being the home team, but by contrast another famous win over France could lift Sergio Parisse and co as high as ninth.
Away from the Six Nations, the road to Rugby World Cup 2015 resumes on Saturday when Georgia begin the defence of their European Nations Cup crown against Division 1A newcomers Belgium in a competition that will determine the region’s two qualifiers for England 2015.
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The six sides in the ENC’s top tier could not be closer in the IRB World Rankings with Georgia the highest at 17th and Portugal the lowest at 22nd with Spain, Romania, Russia and Belgium in between, with little more than six rating points separating them.
Victory for Georgia, who qualified for RWC 2011 as Europe 1, can reduce the deficit to the USA Eagles above them and potentially cause Belgium to slip from their highest ever position in the IRB World Rankings, depending on other results.
A shock loss, though, could see Georgia slip from 17th, albeit only if Spain were to emphatically beat Russia in Sochi earlier in the day. Spain, who also currently occupy their highest ever position, will remain 18th with a smaller margin of victory, even if Romania also win in Portugal.
Portugal could fall one or two places with defeat to Romania, but victory over the side that negotiated the Répechage for RWC 2011 could see them return to the top 20 depending on results. Romania could actually fall out of the top 20 if results go against them.
The IRB World Rankings update every Monday at 12:00 UK time.