World Rankings: A big change at the top?
SPOTLIGHT: World Rugby has published the ranking permutations for the final round of World Cup 2023 pool matches in France.
With Ireland, France and New Zealand unable to improve their ratings this weekend due to facing lower-ranked opponents, the Irish can only surrender top spot if beaten by Scotland at Stade de France.
Ireland, with a rating 10.36 points higher than fifth-ranked Scotland, will be replaced at No.1 by France if Les Bleus beat Italy and the Irish lose by any margin.
Defeat by more than 15 points would see Ireland drop to fourth with Scotland climbing to a new high of third and South Africa moving up one to second.
It would also see a New Zealand side victorious over Uruguay fall one place to fifth, equalling their lowest position since the rankings were introduced in October 2003.
France will fall one place to third, swapping places with South Africa, if held to a draw by Italy in Lyon on Friday – a result which would lift the Azzurri one place to 10th.
Les Bleus could slip to fifth if they lose to Italy and New Zealand and Scotland are victorious against Uruguay and Ireland respectively.
South Africa, despite not playing, could end the weekend as No.1 but this would require Ireland and France to both lose by more than 15 points. This sequence of results would take Scotland to second above Ireland and France.
It is possible for New Zealand to plummet to a new low of eighth, although they would have to lose by more than 15 points and Italy beat France by the same margin as well as wins for England, Ireland and Wales.
England, Wales and Fiji – ranked sixth to eighth – are also unable to improve their ratings with victory over Samoa, Georgia and Portugal respectively. However, it is possible for them to still move up the rankings if teams above them lose sufficient points.
One side who can profit from victory are Japan, who will jump three places to ninth if they beat Argentina to confirm their place in the quarterfinals for the second successive tournament.
Los Pumas would fall two place to 11th with another pool stage exit, three if the margin of defeat is by more than 15 points.
If Argentina reach the quarterfinals in style with a win by more than 15 point and the higher-ranked teams above them win their matches, eighth place will be theirs for the taking.
Italy could also shoot back into the top 10 with victory over France, potentially to a new high of sixth if Argentina, England, Fiji and Wales also suffer defeat.
Japan stand to fall two places if they lose and Georgia and Samoa beat their higher-ranked opponents
If they can repeat their victory over Wales from last November, Georgia would climb two places to equal their record high of 11th if Italy and Japan are beaten this weekend.
A win by more than 15 points could take the Lelos into the top 10 for the first time – to as high as eighth – and see them ranked above Pool C rivals Wales and Australia.
Tonga cannot improve on 16th place even if they beat Romania by more than 15 points as the sides above them will lose nothing with defeats to higher-ranked teams.
The ‘Ikale Tahi can only close to 0.66 rating points behind their Pacific Island rivals Samoa.
Romania will fall one place to 20th, swapping places with Spain, if beaten by Tonga.
However, the Oaks would become the higher-ranked of the two nations if they beat Tonga in their first World Cup meeting.
Tonga will drop two places to 18th in defeat, even if Portugal and Uruguay are also beaten with 19th possible if they lose by more than 15 points to Romania.
Such a scenario would see the sides swap places with Romania jumping four places to 15th – their highest position since February 2022.
Even in victory, Tonga will fall one place if Portugal beat Fiji to claim their first-ever World Cup victory, a result which could lift them to a new high of 14th.
Defeat could scupper Fiji’s hopes of reaching the quarterfinals for the first time since 2007, while also seeing them drop out of the top 10, depending on other results.