Lowest ever ranking looms over Ireland
The Aviva Stadium encounter between Ireland and France on Saturday not only brings together two sides desperate to kick-start their season but could be the catalyst for positional changes when the IRB World Rankings update on Monday.
France, without a win to their name in the RBS 6 Nations this year, currently sit fifth with Ireland seventh after contriving to lose to Scotland in the last round despite enjoying more than 70 per cent territory and possession at Murrayfield.
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Les Bleus can theoretically reclaim the mantle of the highest ranked northern hemisphere nation, but only if they beat Ireland and England not only suffer a first ever loss to Italy but by a margin of more than 15 points.
But on the other hand a fourth defeat in the 2013 Championship – in tandem with a Welsh victory at Murrayfield – could see France drop to seventh, a position they occupied briefly after losing the first Test to Argentina last June.
The cost of defeat could be even more costly for Ireland with a third loss in a row dropping Declan Kidney’s men to their lowest position since the rankings were introduced in October 2003, regardless of the final score.
Whether they end the weekend in ninth or 10th depends on the margin of defeat and the outcome at Murrayfield, a first Scotland victory over Wales since 2007 would mean the latter for Ireland and could propel the rejuvenated Scots as high as sixth.
A first French win of 2013 will ensure they cannot relinquish their fifth place as the closet a victorious Welsh side can get to them is to within one hundredth of a rating point.
Wales can climb to fourth, but only if they win by more than 15 points and France and England lose by the same. A one-place elevation to fifth is a more realistic climb for Wales if they win and Les Bleus lose again.
The only certainty for round four is that an England victory at Twickenham on Sunday will have no impact on either their or Italy’s rating points. The only instance where ratings will be effected is if Italy cause another upset and either draw or win.
Unbeaten records on line in ENC 2014
The RBS 6 Nations, though, is not the only competition this weekend which can impact the IRB World Rankings as the European Nations Cup 2014 continues with four matches across the top two divisions.
Three of these are in Division 1A, which will determine the Europe 1 and 2 qualifiers for Rugby World Cup 2015, with Georgia hosting Spain in Tbilisi, Romania travelling to Brussels to face Belgium and Portugal welcoming Russia to Coimbra.
Spain were the only side to beat Georgia in the ENC 2012 but will not have fond memories of their last visit to Tbilisi, having been crushed 60-0 in 2011. If they can avenge that defeat then they could climb to 18th.
Georgia, who currently head the standings on point differential from Romania after both won their opening three matches, can slightly reduce their deficit to USA above with another win, but a loss – allied with a Romanian win – will see them surrender 17th.
If Romania slip up to a Belgium side that has impressed on their first season in Division 1A then the two could find themselves together in the rankings, the Belgians potentially climbing as many as three places to 20th with an emphatic win.
Portugal also have the chance to enter the top 20 if they can beat Russia in a match which, given their recent meetings, could be tight with four points the biggest margin of victory in their last four encounters.
The other ENC fixture sees Germany travel to Prague to face the Czech Republic in Division 1B. Germany, as the higher ranked team, cannot improve on their position of 29th but will fall one or two places in defeat.
The Czech Republic could slip as many as three places to 50th with a loss by more than 15 points, but has the potential to jump as high as 39th with an emphatic win over the higher ranked Germans.
The IRB World Rankings update every Monday at 12:00 UK time.
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