Four vying to be number one in World Rugby
OPINION: Ireland’s position as the leading team is under threat this weekend from South Africa, New Zealand and France.
With points worth double during a World Cup, there could be some dramatic changes to the World Rankings powered by Capgemini over the coming seven weeks.
Ireland go into their second consecutive tournament ranked at number one but that status comes under threat this weekend with as many as three different teams able to replace them at the top.
Andy Farrell’s team currently have a slender 0.74-point lead over reigning world champions South Africa but with no way of increasing it with a victory over the much lower-ranked Romania, they are susceptible to results elsewhere.
South Africa stand to gain a maximum of 0.88 points by beating Scotland by more than 15 points, a result which would take them to number one unless New Zealand win by the same margin against France in the opening match of the tournament on Friday.
In that scenario, the All Blacks would jump from fourth to first with a rating of 93.01 points. They have not been ranked number once since November 2021.
For hosts France to move back to the top for only the second time in history, Les Bleus need to beat New Zealand and hope Ireland and South Africa fail to win their Pool B matches against Romania and Scotland respectively.
Les Bleus cannot pick up enough rating points to move to number one if Ireland or South Africa are victorious.
Big gains possible for Scots
It is possible for Scotland to climb to second if they beat the Springboks by more than 15 points, Ireland lose, and the match between France and New Zealand ends in a draw.
A historic high of fourth will be achieved if both Scotland and New Zealand win by smaller margins. A France win by more than 15 points would also see Scotland climb to fourth in victory.
New Zealand will equal their lowest-ever rating of fifth if they lose to France by more than 15 points and Scotland win.
With over three points separating Scotland in fifth and Argentina in sixth, Los Pumas will need to beat England by more than 15 points in Marseille to improve their position at Scotland’s expense.
Having reached an all-time high of seventh with victory over England in their final Rugby World Cup 2023 warm-up match, Fiji can better that this weekend, although their chances haven’t been helped by the loss of their leading fly-half, Caleb Muntz, to a tournament-ending injury.
A win over Wales will be enough to move Fiji up to sixth if England v Argentina ends in a draw. Another permutation that will send Fiji up to sixth is if they win by more than 15 points and England edge Argentina by a lesser margin.
England can gain a maximum of three places with a win but that is dependent on a big scoreline in their favour against Los Pumas and a number of other results going their way.
Australia can also gain three places with a win by more than 15 points but that, too, would be dependent on other results across the opening weekend.
Lelos eye historic place in top 10
Georgia can enter the top 10 for the first time since the rankings were introduced in October 2003 if they beat Australia in their World Cup 2023 opener.
Australia, who are already at their lowest ranking of ninth, are in danger of falling out of the top 10 altogether if they suffer a sixth straight defeat in Eddie Jones’ second spell in charge.
Meanwhile, a defeat for Wales could send them tumbling out of the top 10 for the first time.
Japan are unable to improve their rating with victory over Rugby World Cup debutants Chile due to the 12.80-point difference between the teams, meaning they will remain in 14th place in victory unless Italy slip up against Namibia.
However, if the Brave Blossoms lose they will slip below Tonga and also Portugal if the margin is more than 15 points.
Chile can enter the top 20 for the first time if they beat Japan, depending on the margin of victory and the outcome of Italy v Namibia.
Romania and Namibia will be rewarded with an improved position if they pull off shock results against Six Nations sides Ireland and Italy.
The best Namibia can hope for with a first-ever Rugby World Cup victory is a climb of four places and a new high – surpassing their previous best of 19th.
Romania’s return to the World Cup stage could – if they can cause one of the biggest upsets in the tournament’s history – see them climb as many as five places.