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Italy overtakes Australia, as inactive Boks stretch their lead

NEWS: The World Rugby rankings will make for an interesting topic of conversation in the Lynagh household this week.

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What had been a quiet Test debut for Italy wing Louis Lynagh sparked into life when he scored late on to contribute to a remarkable comeback that saw the Azzurri beat Scotland for the first time in nine years and win at the Stade Olimpico in the Six Nations for the first time in over 4,000 days.

Italy went into the match having lost 30 straight games at their main home ground, dating back to 18 March, 2013, when they beat Ireland 22-15.

But a try from Player of the Match Juan Ignacio Brex and then Lynagh and Stephen Varney, as well as 13 points from the boot of Paolo Garbisi and Martin Page-Relo’s long-range penalty, ended the eternal wait for a home win in the Eternal City.

The result was also significant as it has taken Italy above Australia in the rankings for the first time since they were introduced over two decades ago in 2003.

Had the rankings been in existence in the 1980s and 90s, when Louis’ dad Michael was playing for the Wallabies, they’d have arguably been the unofficial number one team for the majority of that time, especially in 1991 when he helped to orchestrate the first of their two World Cup triumphs.

Now, though, they’re languishing in 10th place, equalling their worst-ever position.

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Italy, meanwhile, are up to ninth – one place off their all-time best, with the chance of further progress next week if they beat winless Wales in the wooden spoon decider in Cardiff.

England’s last-gasp 23-22 win over runaway Six Nations leaders Ireland was perhaps even more impressive.

Marcus Smith’s drop-goal won the game at the death and, in doing so, ended Ireland’s hopes of becoming the first team to win back-to-back Six Nations Grand Slams.

With the win, England gained 1.42 points, a fraction less than Italy got for beating Scotland, and that would have been enough for them to move up to fourth had France not returned from Cardiff with a 45-24 victory over Wales.

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France’s power game got the job done at the Principality Stadium and banked them 0.92 points, which was enough to keep England at bay and hang on to fourth place.

Wales stay eighth but with Italy breathing down their necks.

Ireland’s defeat to England and the loss of 1.44 points did not cost them second place. but the gap between themselves in second and South Africa in first has increased to 3.85 points

Switzerland, meanwhile, made it three wins out of three in the Europe Trophy 2023-24 with a 41-25 victory over title rivals Czechia.

The result not only puts them in pole position to win promotion to the Rugby Europe Championship in 2025 but it has also boosted their rating to 57.44 points.

It is not enough for them to improve on 26th place but the loss of 1.15 points in exchange has cost Czechia three places. Czechia are now down to 37th.

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