Only England are safe on a weekend when the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini could be set for a major shake-up.
Even if the Red Roses’ 27-match winning run ends with a shock defeat against South Africa in the final round of pool play at Rugby World Cup 2021, they will still retain their status as the number one team in the world.
Simon Middleton’s side go into the weekend with a 7.21-point buffer over nearest rivals New Zealand, which is enough for them to keep the Black Ferns at arm’s length.
However, should the Springbok Women spring a surprise and be the first team to beat England since 2019 and the Black Ferns see off Scotland, as most people expect them to, the gap will be down to just 1.2 points.
Depending on the margin, South Africa will climb two or three places in victory.
As for New Zealand, defeat to Scotland would result in them dropping down to fourth place if combined with wins for Canada and France, against USA and Fiji, respectively.
In such a scenario, Canada would move up to second place, to equal their previous best ranking, with France in third.
North American bragging rights
Canada need just one point from their match against USA to be guaranteed top spot in a highly competitive Pool B.
But anything less than a win would be a major disappointment for a side that has won the last five North American derbies.
While the 11.05 points differential between Canada and the Women’s Eagles means they will not get any additional rankings points in victory, they could lose as many as six in defeat.
A heavy loss to USA would actually see Canada drop below their border rivals in the rankings for the first time since the Women’s Rankings were introduced in February 2016, with the Women’s Eagles moving up to a record high of fourth and Canada falling to fifth.
Having won their first Rugby World Cup game at the second attempt, Fiji’s next mission is a mouth-watering game against France.
Les Bleues go into the game as heavy favourites and cannot improve their rating due to the 27.76 points between the teams.
But Fiji stand to gain at least one point if they can back up their dramatic second-round victory over South Africa.
Rollercoaster ride for Wallaroos
Mirroring what has been an up-and-down campaign to date, Australia’s position in the rankings could fluctuate wildly depending on the outcome of their encounter with Pool A rivals Wales.
A record high of fifth is within their grasp if they win well and everything else falls in their favour but, equally, they could end up as low as 11th.
For Wales, the result will have a much less dramatic impact, because they will only move up one or down one regardless of how other results pan out.
This leaves us with Japan v Italy. A repeat of the draw the last time these teams faced each other in 2019 would see Japan leapfrog Spain and move into 11th place.
A win for the Sakura Fifteens could lift them to their highest-ever position and see them overtake Italy in the rankings.
Italy cannot improve their position and could drop a place even if they win as the four points on offer for a USA win against Canada would see Women’s Eagles better than Azzurre’s total.