Europe and Americas set for rankings battles

World Rugby Rankings points are at stake this weekend in the Rugby Europe Championship and Americas Rugby Championship. We take a look at the matches involved.

The third round of the Rugby Europe Championship takes place this weekend, while the Americas Rugby Championship enters the fourth round stage.

All three Rugby Europe Championship matches count towards the rankings. Georgia, the highest-ranked of the six participating teams, take their unbeaten record to Brussels, where they face a Belgium side that always puts up a good fight on home soil, while Germany host Russia and Spain entertain Romania in what appears to be, on paper at least, an evenly-matched fixture.

The Americas Rugby Championship action gets underway on Friday when Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifiers Canada welcome table-topping Argentina XV to the Westhills Stadium in Langford. While that fixture doesn't count towards the rankings due to its non-test match status, the other two matches on Saturday do. Sao Paulo is the venue for Brazil versus Chile and USA play Uruguay in Seattle as both sides ramp up preparations before their involvement at RWC 2019.

VIEW FULL #ARC2019 PREVIEW  >>

VIEW FULL RANKINGS  >>

RUGBY EUROPE CHAMPIONSHIP 

Germany (28) v Russia (19)

Team news

Centre Eden Syme makes his first start in his third cap for Germany in a side showing three changes of personnel and two positional to the one that lost heavily to Romania last time out. Syme slots in at inside centre with Wynston Cameron-Dow shifting out one place to 13. Elsewhere, Christopher Hilsenbeck is given the fly-half responsibilities with Hagen Schulte moving to full-back in place of Harris Aounallah. The only other change comes in the pack as Marcel Henn gets a rare start at blindside.

Russia make three changes, two in the front row and one on the wing. Evgenii Matveev and Azamat Bitiev come into the side at hooker and tight-head respectively, while Mikhail Babaev takes over from Viktor Kononov in the number 11 jersey.

In brief

  • Russia won last year's match in Cologne, 57-3
  • Russia have won all 10 previous meetings by an average margin of 38 points
  • Russia are the top try scorers (12) and top point scorers (78) after the first two rounds of the Rugby Europe Championship

Rankings predictor

  • A win of any description will lift Germany up four places to 24th unless Brazil enjoy an emphatic victory against Chile, in which case they’ll have to settle for a three-place gain
  • If a big German win is accompanied by a home defeat for Belgium, they will move up five places to 23rd
  • A big Russian win will see them leapfrog Romania and move into 18th place if the Oaks also fail to beat Spain

Belgium (23) v Georgia (12)

Team news

Belgium make seven changes of personnel and two positional for the visit of Georgia. Loose-head Bastien Gallaire joins captain and hooker Thomas Dienst and tight-head Romain Pinte in the front row. Bertrand Billi switches from number eight to form a new second-row partnership with Maxime Ghion, while Romain Honhon comes in at openside and Corentin Lecloux fills the vacant spot at the back of the pack. In the backs, Tom Cocqu's presence at nine allows Isaac Montoisy to shift out one position to fly-half with Vincent Hart moving to full-back as a result. Marc Tchangue and Ervin Murac replace Rayane Leduc and Louis Debatty on the left wing and at inside centre respectively. 

Having warmed up for the trip to Brussels with a training session against England, Georgia make seven changes to the side that defeated Spain 24-10 in Tbilisi. Just two of the changes come in the pack, where Nodar Cheishvili and Otari Giorgadze step into the side in the second row and at number eight. The only backs to retain their places are teenage fly-half Tedo Abzhandadze, who starts his fifth straight game for the Lelos, and 21-year-old centre Giorgi Kveseladze. Giorgi Begadze partners Abzhandadze at half-back, while Merab Sharikadze lines up in midfield alongside Kveseladze. The two new wings are Zurabi Dzneladze and Mirian Modebadze and Soso Matiashvili comes into the side at full-back for the first time this year.

In brief

  • Georgia have won all four previous meetings with an average winning margin of 30 points
  • Georgia have failed to score 30 points or more in each of their last 12 tests
  • Georgia boast the meanest defence in this year's competition with just two tries and 19 points conceded from the first two rounds
  • Belgium have the worst defence statistically with 13 tries and 86 points conceded
  • Belgium have won four out of their last five tests on home soil

Rankings predictor

  • Belgium will overtake Namibia and move into 22nd place if they win. It also possible for them to reel in Canada, too, and jump a further place to 21st
  • Georgia could fall as low as 15th if beaten heavily
  • It is not possible for Georgia to climb any higher than their present position

Spain (20) v Romania (18)

Team news

Spain welcome back prolific points scorer Brad Linklater for the first time in nearly a year in a much-changed line-up. After being named at full-back, Linklater has the opportunity to draw closer to Esteban Roqué Segovia's national points scoring record of 257 points. The New Zealand-born player is currently 32 points adrift. Wing Jordi Jorba and Richard Stewart are the only backs to retain their place from the 24-10 defeat to Georgia in round three of the Rugby Europe Championship. Upfront, Benat Auzqui, Josh Peters and Pierre Barthere replace Stephen Barnes, Manual Mora and Michael Hogg at hooker, second-row and number eight respectively. Mora switches to blindside flanker with Lucas Guillame moving to openside.

Romania make four changes of personnel and three positional for the trip to Madrid, including a first appearance of the year for centre Tangimana Fonovai. Catalin Fercu returns to partner Fonovai in midfield, while Marius Simionescu replaces Ionel Melinte at full-back. Elsewhere, Romania's record point scorer Florin Vlaicu shifts from inside centre to fly-half. In the pack, Romania field a re-jigged back-row with Cristi Chirica selected at number eight in place of Andre Gorin who moves to blindside. Captain Mihai Macovei shifts from the blindside to openside.

In brief

  • Spain have won five out of their last six home tests, only losing 28-10 to Samoa in that time
  • Spain have scored the lowest number of tries (three) after the first two rounds
  • Spain won last year's fixture in Madrid, 22-10. It was their first victory over Romania in seven years
  • Romania lead the overall head-to-head: 33 wins to three

Rankings predictor

  • Spain will move above Romania in the rankings in victory
  • The highest Spain can climb to is 18th, equalling their previous best
  • Romania will fall to their lowest-ever ranking of 20th if they lose by more than 15 points and Russia fail to win away in Germany
  • Romania cannot improve their position but the gap between themselves and Uruguay will be less than half a point if they win well and Los Teros are beaten by more than 15 points

AMERICAS RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP

Brazil v Chile

Both of Brazil's changes have been forced upon them by injury and suspension. Lorenzo Massari gets his first start in the gold jersey having come off the bench in rounds one and two as a replacement for Felipe Sancery (shoulder) at outside centre. Meanwhile, Caique Silva starts at loose-head for the first time since November 2017 with Lucas Abud suspended.

With a handful of stars away at the HSBC USA Sevens in Las Vegas, changes to Los Condores' line-up were inevitable. Domingo Saavedra gets the nod at scrum-half, while the other new addition to the backline comes on the wing, where Tomas Ianiszewski wins his 20th cap. It is all change in the front row with Vittorio Lastra and Nicolas Valle at loose-head and tight-head respectively and Claudio Iturra at hooker. The rest of the pack remains the same, other than in the second row where Francisco Garrido partners Javier Eissmann.

Team news

In brief

  • The two lowest try scorers in ARC 2019 come together in this bottom-of-the-table affair, with Brazil managing three tries to Chile's two after three rounds
  • Chile are on a 17-game losing run in the ARC, last winning a game in the opening round of the inaugural competition
  • In losing 56-0 to Canada in round three, Chile were kept pointless for the first time in 27 tests, a run dating back to February 2016 when the US Eagles beat them 64-0 in the inaugural ARC
  • Chile lead the overall head-to-head 19-5, with two draws, but three of Os Tupis' wins have come in the last two years
  • Last year's 28-12 win for Brazil was the biggest margin between the teams in six matches

Rankings predictor

  • Brazil will match their all-time highest ranking of 25th if they win and Germany fail to beat Russia
  • Os Tupis will climb to their highest-ever position of 24th if they win by more than 15 points. If Belgium also lose by the same margin at home to Georgia, they will climb a further place to 23rd, as long as Germany don't win by an equally big margin
  • Chile will be the higher-ranked of the two teams if they win by more than 15 points
  • Chile cannot fall any lower than their present position of 29th

USA v Uruguay

Team news

Eagles coach Gary Gold has made five changes to the starting line-up with hooker Joe Taufete’e back in to start and Tevita Tameilau packing down at flanker. With Shaun Davies rested, Ruben de Haas will have an opportunity to start at scrum-half. Marcel Brache reverts back into his position on the wing and Will Hooley starts at full-back. Nick Boyer could make his first ever Americas Rugby Championship appearance after earning his first cap last November, if called upon from the bench.

Uruguay's line-up is much-changed from the one beaten 35-10 by Argentina XV in Buenos Aires last week. Hooker German Kessler and captain and blindside, Juan Manuel Gaminara, are the only players to retain their places in the pack. Loose-head Mateo Sanguinetti will win his 50th Los Teros cap with Juan Pedro Rombys packing down on the other side of the scrum. Ignacio Dotti and Diego Magno, Uruguay's most-capped player, form the second row and Juan Diego Ormaechea and Alejandro Nieto join Gaminara in the back row. The changes to the backline come at scrum-half, where Santiago Arata replaces Tomas Inciarte after completing his suspension, and Andres Vilaseca returns at 12 with Gaston Mieres stepping into the last line of defence.

In brief

  • A fixture between the Americas 1 and 2 qualifiers for RWC 2019
  • USA have never lost to Uruguay at home in eight previous matches
  • USA and Uruguay have faced each other 17 times with the Eagles on top with a 14-1-2 overall record
  • Uruguay have only managed six tries in their first three games compared to 17 for the USA. However, Uruguay have conceded fewer tries (nine to the Eagles' 11)

Rankings predictor

  • USA will close to within two-tenths of a point of Georgia in 12th if they win by more than 15 points
  • Uruguay will move above Samoa and into 16th place if they win
  • There could be just one place between the teams instead of four if Los Teros win by more than 15 points

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

 Photo: Sportkipik.be