France have overtaken Ireland in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini as a result of their 30-24 win at a raucous Stade de France on Saturday.
Les Bleus moved up a place to fourth and Ireland dropped two places to fifth after a game that lived up to all the pre-match hype.
Mack Hansen’s brilliant catch on the run from a restart saw Ireland reply shortly afterwards before the half closed with France holding a 19-7 lead thanks to the boot of Melvyn Jaminet.
Another Jaminet penalty extended France’s lead at the start of the second half but Ireland hit back with two tries in five minutes from Josh van der Flier and Jamison Gibson-Park.
Prop Cyril Baille barged his way over to give France some respite and after that the only scoring came from the respective boots of Jaminet and Joey Carbery.
France are the only team with two wins from the opening two rounds and remain on course for a first Six Nations title and also a Grand Slam since 2010.
Further improvement in the rankings is possible over the coming weeks as England are only a third of a rating point better off than them in third while New Zealand hold an advantage of 2.29 points in second.
With two away games against Scotland and Wales coming up and a home date with England to finish off the Championship, France will have opportunities to make up further ground.
France were last ranked second in the world in October 2007 when they hosted Rugby World Cup 2007, and to get there again before they host their next tournament in 2023 would be another sign of their progress under head coach Fabien Galthié.
4 GREAT TRIES... Which was your favourite?— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 13, 2022
Cardiff record Biggar's belief for Scotland
Before the fireworks in Paris, Wales bounced back from their round one loss to Ireland with a morale-boosting 20-17 win against Scotland in the opening fixture of the second round of Six Nations 2022.
Fresh from their opening day win over England, Scotland headed to Cardiff in a buoyant mood and looking to register back-to-back victories at the start of a Championship for the first time.
Scotland had not won in Cardiff since 2002, though, and history was against them again as Wales captain Dan Biggar kicked his side to a 20-17 win.
Biggar’s five penalties were complemented by a rare try for tight-head Tomas Francis as Wales edged a game that could have gone either way.
Scotland’s points came from an early Darcy Graham try and four Finn Russell penalties.
Wales remain eighth in the rankings but are only a point adrift of Scotland who drop below Australia and into seventh.
England comfortably got the job done in Rome as Italy’s losing streak in the Six Nations continued.
Marcus Smith scored the first of England’s five tries in a 33-0 win and was also named Player of the Match.
Neither team’s rating was affected by the outcome but England profited from Ireland’s defeat and the loss of 0.83 of a point by replacing them in third.
Here's how things stand in the qualification race for #RWC2023 with a look at the combined 2021 and 2022 @rugby_europe Championship standings— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) February 13, 2022
The top two teams will directly qualify, with the third placed team going into the Final Qualification Tournament. All to play for🏉 pic.twitter.com/8dFapnBAWS
Race for France 2023 hots up
Away from the Six Nations, the Rugby Europe Championship 2022 served up a couple of classic encounters as the race for Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification intensified.
Three high-scoring games brought wins for Georgia, Romania and Spain, who occupy the top three places in the race for France 2023.
Flanker Otar Giorgadze scored a hat-trick as defending champions Georgia bounced back from last week’s draw with Portugal in emphatic style, beating the Netherlands 72-10 in Amsterdam.
Romania trailed Portugal 27-20 going into the final quarter of their match but reeled off 17 unanswered points to win 37-27 and significantly improve their chances of making it to France next year.
A second Rugby World Cup and a first since 1999 is still a realistic aim for Spain who came away from their game with Russia in Sochi with a precious 41-37 bonus-point win and a gain of three places in the rankings. By moving from 20th to 17th, Spain swap places with Portugal.
Georgia now have 31 points from seven matches in the combined 2021 and 2022 Rugby Europe Championship standings, Romania are second with 22 and Spain are one point further back in third. Portugal are fourth on 16 points with Russia fifth on 10 points and the Netherlands are still rooted to the foot of the table without a point to their name.
A win for Georgia at home to Russia in a fortnight’s time would all but mathematically guarantee them a direct ticket to France.
Spain and Romania – the top two sides after two rounds of this year’s competition – play each other in Madrid in a pivotal round three fixture, while Russia are at home to the Netherlands.