After a dramatic last round of matches, the Autumn Nations Series continues with another set of mouth-watering fixtures to look forward to on Saturday and Sunday.
Helped by Argentina’s surprise 30-29 win against England, the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini were given a real shake-up last weekend with six of the Top 10 ending up in a different position.
And this weekend’s matches could have an equally big influence on the rankings, especially right at the top where as many as four teams are striving to be declared the world’s best.
Ireland currently hold that lofty status and will remain there if they make it five test wins out of five against Fiji in Dublin in the earliest of the Saturday kick-offs.
However, if Ireland fall flat and slip up – as they so nearly did when Fiji were last in town in 2017 – France, South Africa and New Zealand will be primed and ready to take advantage.
Here’s your Brave Blossom team to take on England this weekend in Twickenham ✊— Japan Rugby (@JRFURugby) November 10, 2022
🏴 England v Japan 🇯🇵
⏰ Sunday 13 November, 00:15
📺 NHK/WOWOW Prime #GoWithTheBrave | #ENGvJPN pic.twitter.com/8f3pJfqNAW
History-making Les Bleus
If France extend their record winning streak to 12 matches by beating South Africa and Ireland fail to beat Fiji then Les Bleus will go to number one in the rankings for the first time since they were introduced in October 2003 – becoming the sixth nation to occupy top spot.
However, history suggests France will have their work cut out as South Africa have won on their last three visits to the Stade de France and have won the last nine matches when Wayne Barnes, Saturday’s referee, has been the man in the middle.
If South Africa maintain that trend and bounce back from last weekend’s 19-16 loss to Ireland, the reigning world champions will be restored to number one if a win for them is accompanied by a draw or defeat for Ireland.
New Zealand could also top the rankings for the first time since Rugby World Cup 2019 if they beat Scotland at Murrayfield, Ireland lose and the match between France and South Africa is drawn.
South Africa will regain the third place they lost last weekend to New Zealand even if both sides are beaten this weekend – a result of them losing to a higher-ranked team
While England’s Autumn Nations Series 2022 campaign began on a losing note at home to Argentina, they still remained in fifth place in the rankings.
However, a second consecutive defeat, to the lower-ranked Japan, could send them tumbling by as many as three places if other results also go against them and the margin between the teams at Twickenham is significant.
A first-ever win for Scotland over the All Blacks, meanwhile, would be rewarded with a two-place rise to sixth.
Over in Cardiff, Wales must win by more than 15 points to be higher ranked than visitors Argentina and reclaim some of the ground they lost in the rankings following their heavy defeat to New Zealand. Argentina could climb up to fifth.
Japan will trade places with Wales in ninth if victory over England is accompanied by another away win in Cardiff.
Big weekend for Wallabies
Having watched their team come out on either side of one-point scorelines in their first two matches of the Autumn Nations Series, it has been a nerve-jangling fortnight for Australian fans.
After the 16-15 win over Scotland and the 30-29 loss to France, the Wallabies’ next assignment is against Italy, a side they have never lost to in test rugby.
If they maintain that record at the weekend with an emphatic victory and shock results happen elsewhere, the Wallabies could move up to fifth place,
Equally, they could fall down the rankings to a record low of 10th if they suffer a heavy defeat and Japan and Scotland enjoy one-sided wins against England and New Zealand, respectively, and Wales and Argentina play out a draw, as they did in July 2021.
Italy’s prize for breaking their barren run against Australia could be an improved ranking of 11th.
While that wraps up the next round of fixtures in the Autumn Nations Series, there are still plenty of matches taking place around the world as teams continue their preparations for Rugby World Cup 2023 – or as in the case of the USA, Portugal, Hong Kong and Kenya – attempt to get there through the Final Qualification Tournament.
As Fiji can’t move any higher than 11th, even if they storm Ireland’s Aviva Stadium fortress and become one of the very few sides to win there since Andy Farrell took on the coaching reins, that opens the door for other sides just below them in the rankings to take advantage.
For instance, Italy and Georgia will both climb above a beaten Fiji if they taste victory against Australia and Samoa respectively.
Samoa will climb above Georgia if they avoid defeat in their game against the Lelos in Tbilisi and could jump three places to 11th if they win and Fiji and Italy are both beaten.
Triumf over adversity
In Bucharest, at the Stadionul National Arcul de Triumf, Romania and Uruguay renew their acquaintance from July, when the series between the sides in Montevideo ended 1-1.
Romania will climb one place to 16th – swapping places with Spain – if both teams are victorious against Uruguay and Namibia respectively
Los Teros will jump above the Oaks if they avoid defeat in Bucharest and could climb as high as 15th depending on other results.
Romania’s national rugby stadium is also the setting for Tonga’s encounter with Chile, the outcome of which could also have repercussions on the rankings.
Defeat for Uruguay in Romania will see them drop below Portugal and USA if those teams win their second RWC 2023 Final Qualification Tournament matches in Dubai, as they are hotly tipped to do.
Portugal cannot improve their rating with victory over Kenya due to the 13.47 rating points between the sides, which means the USA will reclaim 19th back off Os Lobos if they beat Hong Kong by over 15 points.
A reversal of that outcome, however, would see Hong Kong ranked above the USA for the first time in history and condemn the Eagles to a place outside the Top 20, which is also unprecedented.
With Spain also playing host to Namibia, the Oceania Rugby Championship coming to a conclusion in Papua New Guinea and a first-ever meeting between the Netherlands and Canada amongst a host of other matches, the rankings could look very different by the time Scotland and New Zealand bring the curtain down on an action-packed weekend at Murrayfield late on Sunday afternoon.