World Cup hopefuls Canada eye place in rankings top 20

Canada are on the verge of qualifying for a ninth straight Rugby World Cup as well as reclaiming their position among the world's top 20 ranked nations. We take a look at their repechage meeting with Hong Kong and the rest of the internationals taking place this weekend.

The conclusion of the Rugby World Cup 2019 Repechage tournament in Marseille on Friday sets things up nicely for another appetising weekend of international rugby.

After Kenya's game against Germany and the all-important tie between Canada and Hong Kong that will decide the final qualifier for next year's tournament in Japan, attention will then turn to Saturday's action-packed schedule.

England's game against Australia, the 50th test between the two nations in more than a century of rivalry, and Wales' bid to complete a clean sweep of November wins against an equally resurgent South Africa are two of the standout fixtures.

In Dublin, Ireland find themselves up against another in-form team in the USA, while the All Blacks will be confident of extending their reign as the number one team in the World Rugby Rankings into the New Year with a victory over Italy at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

As well as New Zealand's clash with Italy, there is one other early RWC 2019 match-up: a dress rehearsal for the tournament's opening fixture with Japan taking on Russia in Gloucester, England.

France and Fiji meet in Paris and Scotland take on Argentina in Edinburgh, both fixtures involving teams that are only ranked two places apart. 

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Elsewhere, Georgia host Tonga in Tbilisi, Spain meet Samoa for the first time in an international, Namibia travel to Taveiro to play Portugal and Romania welcome Uruguay to Bucharest, not forgetting the Rugby Europe Trophy encounter between the Netherlands and Switzerland.

RWC 2019 REPECHAGE

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Kenya (30) v Germany (28)

Team news

Kenya, the only one of the repechage teams without a victory so far, have made five changes to their starting line-up with hooker Philip Ikambli and flanker George Nyambua coming into the forward pack in place of Colman Were and Andrew Amonde. Samson Onsomu comes in to partner Samuel Oliech at half-back with centre Peter Kilonzo and winger Darwin Mukidza the only other changes in the backline.

Germany, looking to bounce back after their defeat to Canada last weekend, have made six changes, one of them positional with Marcel Coetzee swapping to the left wing with Steffen Liebig filling the vacated spot on the right. Jorn Schroder and Matthias Schosser are the props either side of Kurt Haupt in the front row, while Ayron Schramm will pack down at number eight. The only other change sees Hagen Schulte join Wynston Cameron Dow in the centres. 

In brief

  • Neither team can qualify for RWC 2019
  • Germany won 30-29 the only time the sides previously met in Nairobi in May 2017
  • Nine of the starting XV that day played in Germany's last fixture: the 29-10 defeat to Canada

Rankings predictor

Kenya will climb one place if they win unless Switzerland beat the Netherlands in the Rugby Europe Trophy. They will leapfrog Germany if they win by over 15 points. However, Kenya will fall two places in defeat with Germany climbing up three with an emphatic victory and other results going their way

Hong Kong (22) v Canada (21)

Team news

Hong Kong field a new front row in Dan Barlow, Danye Jans and Grant Kemp, while Craig Lodge comes into the second row with captain James Cunningham dropping back to flanker. Thomas Lamboley replaces Kane Boucaut at number eight. The backline also shows four changes from the win over Kenya with Liam Slatem and Matt Rosslee returning at half-back, Conor Hartley on the left wing and Casey Stone at full-back.

By contrast Canada coach Kingsley Jones has made just one enforced change to his starting line-up after winger Matt Evans was ruled out of the tournament through injury, his place on the right wing being taken by his replacement Taylor Paris. The bench remains the same for Canada from the win over Germany last weekend that put them on the verge of qualification for Japan 2019.

In brief

  • Canada will qualify for RWC 2019 unless Hong Kong win with a bonus point and deny the Canucks anything from the game
  • Canada have five wins to Hong Kong's one in the head-to-head
  • Hong Kong's only win in this fixture was 23-17 at home in May 1998
  • This will be the first match-up for two decades and the first at a neutral ground

Rankings predictor

Hong Kong must win by more than 15 points to climb above Canada once again in rankings, while a losing Hong Kong will fall below a victorious Namibia. Canada can return to the top 20 with a win of more than 15 points win if Spain also lose.

England (4) v Australia (6)

Team news

England coach Eddie Jones has made nine changes to the side that faced Japan last weekend with three positional switches. Jamie George retains his place at hooker meaning that co-captain Dylan Hartley has to settle for a place on the bench. Hartley, though, is still in line to make a record 56th international appearance at Twickenham. Ben Moon and Kyle Sinckler return to the front row, while Courtney Lawes shifts from blindside to accompany Maro Itoje in the second row. Brad Shields fills the gap left at six and Mark Wilson takes Zach Mercer's place at number eight. The Ben Youngs/Owen Farrell axis is restored at half-back, while Ben Te'o and Henry Slade form the midfield combination and Joe Cokanasiga is rewarded for his try-scoring appearance against Japan with another start on the wing. Meanwhile, Manu Tuilagi is set for his first appearance in an England jersey for two years after being named among the replacements.

Will Genia returns to the Wallabies line-up to make his 100th test appearance. The scrum-half, who will become Australia's 10th test centurion, is one of five changes to the side that defeated Italy 26-7 in Padova last week. Coach Michael Cheika has brought in Jack Maddocks and Dane Haylett-Petty on the wings, while the other changes come in the front row. Tolu Latu is named at hooker and Sekope Kepu plays tight-head.

In brief

  • Australia have won 25 of the previous 49 meetings with England. England have 23 wins and there has been one draw
  • Since losing to Australia at Twickenham in the pool stages of RWC 2015, England have won their last five games against the Wallabies
  • One score will put Owen Farrell in front of Jonny Wilkinson as England's all-time record points scorer against Australia. They are currently tied on 114 points

Rankings predictor

Australia will be the higher ranked of the nations in victory and could climb to fourth if they win by more than 15 points and Wales lose. If England and Wales are both beaten, Eddie Jones' side could drop two places to sixth.

Wales (3) v South Africa (5)

Team news

After fielding an unfamiliar line-up in last week's record win over Tonga, Wales coach Warren Gatland reverts back to type with virtually the same XV that beat Australia selected for the visit of the Springboks. Liam Williams for full-back Leigh Halfpenny, who has been ruled out with concussion, is, in fact, the only change.

For the first time this year, South Africa will field an unchanged starting XV. There is, however, one change among the replacements where Eben Etzebeth is set to provide impact off the bench. The experienced second-row has recovered from his calf problem and comes into the 23-man squad in place of Lood de Jager.

In brief

  • Following an agonising one-point loss to England at Twickenham at the start of the tour, the Springboks have subsequently gained hard-fought victories over France in Paris and Scotland at Murrayfield
  • Wales have won eight games on the bounce
  • Both of Wales' last two wins against the Springboks came with a two-point winning margin

Rankings predictor

South Africa will be the higher ranked of the nations with victory and could climb as high as third if they win and Australia avoid defeat against England. It is not possible for Wales to climb any higher than their current position of third.

Ireland (2) v USA (13)

Team news

Will Addison wins his third cap for Ireland but his first at full-back in a side unrecognisable to the one that achieved an historic home win over the All Blacks. Indeed, only Garry Ringrose, at outside centre, retains his place from one Saturday to the next as Ireland coach Joe Schmidt tries out different combinations. Addison is joined in the back three by Andrew Conway and Darren Sweetnam, while Stuart McCluskey keeps Ringrose company in midfield. John Cooney and Joey Carbery are tasked with the half-back duties. A new-look front-row comprises Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and Finlay Bealham. Tadgh Beirne and Iain Henderson pack down behind them in the second row with captain Rhys Ruddock, Jordi Murphy and Jack Cronin making up the back row.

The Eagles line-up shows three adjustments to the one that won in Romania with two further changes to the bench. Hanco Germishuys is the only new face in the pack, at openside, the 22-year-old who has six tries in 10 tests coming in for Tony Lamborn. Scrum-half Shaun Davies is back in the fold after completing his HIA protocol while the other changes are on the wing with Marcel Brache replacing Ryan Matyas and at full-back, where Will Hooley gets the nod. Samu Manoa is named as a replacement alongside newcomer Chance Wenglewski. Wenglewski joined the Eagles for their November opener against the Maori All Blacks in Chicago and has the opportunity to earn his first cap from the bench.

In brief

  • Ireland have won all 10 matches between the teams dating back to 1989
  • The closest scoreline between the two teams is 15-12 to Ireland in Houston in 2013
  • Ireland have put 50 points plus on the Eagles the last two times they have met in Dublin
  • If Ireland beat the USA it will be their 11th win of 2018 - their second-best return in a calendar year behind 2003 when they won a dozen internationals
  • The USA's current nine-match winning streak is their all-time best
  • They share a former coach in Eddie O'Sullivan

Rankings predictor

Ireland will replace New Zealand on top of rankings if the All Blacks lose to Italy and Ireland win. The USA could climb as high as 11th – a new high – with a draw if Japan and Tonga draw with lower ranked opponents. Top 10 is even within their reach if Fiji also lose and they win by more than 15 points.

Italy (14) v New Zealand (1)

Team news

Italy coach Conor O'Shea has made one injury-enforced change to his line-up for the visit of the All Blacks with Luca Sperandio taking the place of Mattia Bellini on the left wing. Sperandio played at full-back in the first two tests of November but missed out on last week's defeat to Australia.

Steve Hansen has retained just four of the team that fell to a 16-9 defeat to Ireland in Dublin last week with Beauden Barrett and Damian McKenzie once again lining up in the backs and Kieran Read and Ardie Savea getting another run out in the back row. Props Ofa Tuungafasi and Nepo Laulala combine with hooker Dane Coles while a completely new-look front-five is completed by Patrick Tuipulotu and Scott Barrett. Read and Savea are joined in the back row by Vaea Fifita. In the backs, half-back TJ Perenara partners Barrett, while the midfield combination of Ngani Laumape and Anton Lienert-Brown will start, with the back three made up of Waisake Naholo on the left wing, Jordie Barrett on the right and McKenzie at full-back. 

In brief

  • New Zealand are bidding for a 14th straight win against Italy
  • The winning margin has always been in double figures with an average across the 13 tests of 48 points in favour of the All Blacks
  • New Zealand have not lost more than two tests in a calendar year since 2009. South Africa and Ireland have beaten them so far in 2018
  • The All Blacks have scored 483 points so far this year, the sixth highest figure in their history. The All Blacks scored more than 500 points in both 2016 and 2017, the first team to do so in consecutive years
  • These sides met in the very first Rugby World Cup match and have been drawn together for a sixth time at Japan 2019

Rankings predictor

New Zealand will surrender top spot in defeat if Ireland also win. The All Blacks cannot improve their lead over Ireland in victory unless Ireland lose to the USA. Italy will climb two places if they beat New Zealand, three if Tonga and Japan fail to win, and four if they win by more than 15 points and Fiji are beaten by France by that margin.

Scotland (7) v Argentina (9)

Team news

Finn Russell makes his first test start at centre in his 40th cap as Gregor Townsend makes eight changes to the side that lost to South Africa last week. Playmaker Russell shifts out one to accommodate Adam Hastings at fly-half, while the only other change in the backs sees Blair Kinghorn replace Tommy Seymour. Allan Dell, Fraser Brown and Simon Berghan form a new front row with Grant Gilchrist restored to the second row. Jamie Ritchie and Josh Strauss are new additions to the back row. Jonny Gray and Hamish Watson are the only two forwards to survive the cut.

Openside Rodrigo Bruni is handed his first test start in his third Los Pumas cap with Guido Petti moving to the second row to accommodate him. The only other change of personnel to the starting line-up comes at centre where Matias Moroni wins his 40th cap. Scrum-half Martin Landajo is set to make his first appearance of the November series after being named on the bench. Second-rower Tomas Lavanini wins his 50th cap.

In brief

  • Scotland have won the last four tests against Los Pumas
  • Argentina have lost on their last two visits to Murrayfield but enjoyed a four-game winning streak there, between 1999 and 2009
  • Los Pumas are nine points shy of conceding 9,000 in tests
  • If Argentina suffer a 10th defeat of 2018 it will officially be their joint worse year on record, alongside 2013 and 2017

Rankings predictor

Argentina will be the higher ranked of the two nations if they win by more than 15 points and will climb above Les Bleus if they draw (and France lose) or if they win by more than 15 points and France win by any margin. Argentina can climb to seventh if they win emphatically and France fail to beat Fiji 

France (8) v Fiji (10)

Team news

France have kept the half-back combination of Baptiste Serin and Camille Lopez intact for the third game in a row as coach Jacques Brunel opts to make only minimal changes to the team that defeated Argentina 28-13. Upfront, Rabah Slimani replaces Cedate Gomes Sa at tight-head to win his 50th cap while the only change in the backs sees Benjamin Fall replace Maxime Medard at full-back. Julien Marchand of Toulouse and Demba Bamba of Brive are set to make their test debuts after being named as the replacement hooker and tight-head prop respectively.

Toulon winger Josua Tuisova is the only change to the Flying Fijians' side that faced Scotland, with Metuisela Talebula moving to full-back to accommodate his inclusion and Eroni Sau, last week's hat-trick hero against Uruguay, having to settle for a place on the bench.

In brief

  • France have won all nine previous matches
  • This will be the seventh time that the sides have met on French soil but only the second time in Paris
  • One try will take France to 50 tries against Fiji
  • A defeat for Fiji would mean they have lost as many tests as they have won (164:164)

Rankings predictor

France will fall below Fiji if they lose to the Islanders and could fall to 10th if Argentina also beat Scotland. Fiji can equal their best ranking of ninth with a win if Argentina also lose to Scotland or rise to eighth if that Murrayfield match is a draw.

Japan (11) v Russia (19)

Team news

Kaito Shigeno and Amanaki Lotoahea make their first appearances in a Brave Blossoms jersey for 18 months as Jamie Joseph makes five changes to the side that lost 35-15 to England at Twickenham last Saturday. Shigeno forms one part of a new half-back partnership with Rikiya Matsuda, while Lotoahea is selected on the right wing. In the pack, Joseph has named an unchanged front-row with Kazuki Himeno and Hendrik Tui the new additions at second-row and number eight respectively. 

Blindside flanker Vitaly Zhivatov makes a return to the Bears ranks for the first time in four years in a side showing three changes from the one that defeated Namibia a fortnight ago. The other changes come in the backs with Vasily Dorofeev replacing Dmitry Perov at scrum-half and Mikhail Babaev comes in for Denis Simplikevich on the right wing. Full-back Vasily Artemyev leads Russia out for a record 23rd time.

In brief

  • These sides meet in the opening fixture of RWC 2019, on 20 September in Tokyo
  • Russia's only victory in five previous tests was a 43-34 win in the Super Powers Cup in Tokyo in 2003
  • Japan scored 27 unanswered second-half points to win 40-13 when the sides last met at Colwyn Bay in 2013
  • Japan forced England into making over 200 tackles (202) in last week's match at Twickenham

Rankings predictor

Russia could climb as high as 16th if they win by more than 15 points and other results go their way, and they will still climb one place in defeat if combined with a loss for Uruguay – unless Spain also beat Samoa by more than 15. Japan can fall to 13th if they lose to Russia and USA and Tonga also win and could fall as low as 15th if they lose by more than 15, Georgia avoid defeat and other results go against them.

Georgia (15) v Tonga (12)

Team news

Lelos coach Milton Haig has made four changes to his starting line-up, bringing back experienced front-row duo, hooker Shalva Mamukashvili and tight-head Levan Chilachava, into his pack. The other changes come on the wings with Giorgi Kveseladze and Zurab Dzneladze both selected. Georgia will be led out for the 12th time in an international by centre Merab Sharikadze.

After suffering a record defeat at the hands of Wales, Tonga have introduced three New Zealand-based players into their line-up. Marist hooker Sosefo Sakalia comes in for his first start in his seventh cap for the 'Ikale Tahi, while number eight Zane Kapeli, from the Bay of Plenty, and Taranaki centre Latu Vaeno make their test debuts. Both players appeared earlier on tour, in the 49-38 win against the French Barbarians. 

In brief

  • All four of Georgia's wins have been by seven points or less
  • Tonga have won this fixture twice, (23-9 in Tbilisi, 2014 and 37-6 in Nuku'alofa, 1999)
  • Last week's 74-34 defeat to Wales was the most points conceded by Tonga in a test since New Zealand beat them 91-7 at RWC 2003

Rankings predictor

Georgia will be the higher ranked of the nations with victory and will climb two places if they win by more than 15 points and the USA lose to Ireland and Italy don’t beat New Zealand. Tonga can climb to 11th and be just over a tenth of a point away from being the top-ranked Pacific nation if they win by more than 15 points and Fiji lose by the same margin. A heavy defeat could see Tonga drop three places.

Spain (20) v Samoa (16)

Team news

Spain have made six personnel changes and two positional from the line-up that beat Namibia 34-13 in Madrid. Alberto Blanco wins his first test start since March 2017 on the tight-head, while the other change to the pack comes in the back-row with the inclusion of blindside flanker David Barrera. Lucas Guillaume shifts to the openside as a result. Facundo Munilla and Mathieu Carrera make up an all-new half-back partnership, while Alvar Gimeno moves inside one place in midfield, to 12, to accommodate Fabien Perrin outside of him. Julen Goia replaces Lucas Levy at full-back.

Samoa have made five changes to the side beaten 27-19 by Georgia in Tbilisi last week with back-rows Piula Faasalele and captain Jack Lam also requiring late fitness tests. Faifili Levave and Iakopo Mapu are on standby. The two confirmed changes in the pack are at tight-head, where James Lay replaces Paul Alo-Emile, and at number eight Ofisa Treviranus comes in for Josh Tyrell. In the backs, Melani Matavao is given the nod at scrum-half, while Alofa Alofa steps in on the right-wing with JJ Taulagi moving to full-back in place of Ah See Tuala who drops out of the match-day 23.

In brief

  • This is the first meeting between the sides
  • Samoa have only won one of their last 15 away games (v Germany in July)
  • Spain are on a four-game winning streak on home soil

Rankings predictor

Samoa cannot fall below Spain even if they are beaten emphatically. Spain can climb to 19th though if they win and by more than 15 points and Uruguay lose by the same margin.  

Portugal (24) v Namibia (23)

Team news

Portugal captain Salvador Santos moves from blindside flanker to the second row in a side showing six personnel changes and four positional switches. While Os Lobos have kept faith with the same front-row that played against Romania a fortnight ago, Santos and Rui Branco make up a new second-row combination. On the flank, moves from openside to the blindside with Sebastiao Villax wearing the number seven jersey instead. Francisco Vieira and Nuno Guedes are the new half-backs with Guedos having switched from full-back. Manuel Marta comes into the side as the last line of defence. Elsewhere, Antonio Vidinha replaces Portugal's most experienced current international Tomas Appleton in midfield with Vasco Ribeiro now starting one place out at outside centre. Rodrigo Freudenthal swaps wings with Fabio Conceicao handed this first test start at 14.

Darryl de la Harpe leads Namibia from inside centre in his 47th cap and is looking for his first win in charge of the team having lost the previous two. Namibia's record try scorer, Chrysander Botha is restored to the full-back position after a week's, while the equally influential Cliven Loubser is fit again to return to the number 10 jersey. Half-back partner Damian Stevens and Johann Greyling and Johan Tromp add further experience to the backline, while the pack is made up of players who have all had game time this November.

In brief

  • Namibia have won five matches to Portugal's two in the head-to-head
  • Portugal won 29-20 when they last met in Lisbon in 2014
  • Moolman Olivier's 26 points against Portugal in 1990 is the most by a Namibian player in a test against non-African opposition

Rankings predictor

Portugal will be the higher ranked of the nations if victorious. Namibia can fall as low as 26 if beaten by more than 15 points and other results go against them, too. Portugal could fall three places to 27th with defeat.

Romania (17) v Uruguay (18)

Team news

Romania coach Thomas Lievremont has made three changes to the team that lost 31-5 to the USA last week. Eugen Capatana takes over from Andrei Radoi at hooker, while captain and openside Mihai Macovei wins his 80th cap after returning to the side in place of Johannes van Heerden. In the backs, 22-year-old Vladut Popa will start his third test at outside centre with Catalin Fercu dropping out of the match-day 23 altogether.

Uruguay have kept changes to a mininum with only two new faces to the starting XV that lost 68-7 to Fiji last week. Facundo Gattas comes into the side at hooker for only his fifth start in 20 test appearances, while Juan Diego Ormaechea lines up at openside in place of Leandro Segredo in what will be his first outing of November.

In brief

  • Romania are unbeaten in eight matches against Uruguay (seven wins and a draw)
  • All of Romania's wins came in Bucharest with the solitary Montevideo encounter in 2010 ending in a 21-21 draw
  • Before last week's 68-7 loss to Fiji in Gloucester, Uruguay had won four on the bounce on the road

Rankings predictor

Romania will climb above Samoa if they win and Samoa fail to beat Spain. Uruguay can fall two places to 18th if they lose by more than 15 and other results go against them. Uruguay will be the higher ranked of the nations if they win with Romania falling potentially two places.

The World Rugby Rankings update at 12:00 GMT every Monday.