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World Rankings: Italy equal all-time high as Wales fall

NEWS: Italy have matched their previous all-time best of eighth in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings following their 24-21 win over Wales in Cardiff.

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The Azzurri last achieved eighth place back in August 2007 and have previously only held the position three times and for a total of just four weeks.

It was a result that also lifted Italy above Wales in the rankings for the first time since February 2013 and given that neither side plays again until July, it is guaranteed that the status quo will remain that way for a good few months.

With wins over Scotland and Wales and a historic away draw against France, as well as avoiding an eighth consecutive wooden spoon, Italy have climbed from 11th in the rankings to be where they are now.

The Azzurri have picked up 3.48 points since the start of the year – the largest gain of any of the 14 teams competing in the Rugby Europe Men’s Championship and the Six Nations.

Wales, on the other hand, have slipped to a record-equalling low of 10th having lost the most points (3.38 points) over the last seven weeks.

Six Nations champions Ireland, who secured their second straight title with a hard-fought 17-13 win over Scotland, started the year in second place behind the Springboks and have remained there ever since, albeit with a fractionally higher rating of 90.69 points – a gain of just 0.12 points.

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Ireland still trail South Africa by 3.85 points but can claw back further ground if they do well in the two July tests against the world champions, in Durban and Pretoria.

England, meanwhile, looked all set to beat France and replace them in fourth in the rankings as they led a thrilling final match of the tournament in Lyon. However, Thomas Ramos nailed a very late penalty from just shy of halfway to hand Les Bleus a 33-31 win and second place in the Six Nations standings.

An up-and-down campaign for France, which kicked off with a record defeat to Ireland, ended with them gaining just 0.11 points over the duration of the tournament.

While France remained in fourth in the rankings throughout, England stayed in fifth place for the duration, gaining 0.29 points – with their famous Round-Four win over Ireland compensating for away defeats to Scotland and Les Bleus.

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Scotland didn’t go backwards in terms of their rankings position, ending the Six Nations where they started it in sixth. But they were the only team other than Wales to see their rating go down – by 0.61 points.

World Rankings March 18 2024

Georgia’s dominance continues

Georgia wrapped up their seventh straight Rugby European Championship title and extended their unbeaten run in the competition to 35 matches with a comfortable 36-10 win over Portugal in Sunday’s grand final in Paris.

The Lelos started their title defence one place below Portugal in the rankings in 14th, but they finish it as the higher-ranked of the two teams.

None of their four previous wins in the competition had been worth any points as they were playing teams with a significantly lower rating. However, they picked up 1.34 points for the win over Portugal.

Portugal’s heroics at World Cup 2023 had lifted them to a record high of 13th but they lost that status when they began their Rugby Europe Championship challenge with a shock 6-10 defeat to Belgium.

Os Lobos never made up the ground despite wins over Poland, Romania and Spain and have lost a combined total of 2.5 points across the five matches – the most of any team involved in Europe’s two main competitions this year except Wales.

In rankings terms, Spain were the Rugby Europe Championship team that performed best, matching Georgia’s one-place gain by moving up from 20th to 19th at the expense of Romania – thanks to their superb 40-33 win over the Oaks in the bronze medal final – but having gained fractionally more points (1.51).

The Netherlands also did well in this regard, picking up 1.45 points after repeating last year’s fifth-place finish, but without being able to improve on 27th position.

Belgium beat Poland 34-8 as they topped and tailed their campaign with victories, having shocked Portugal on day one. However, a disappointing defeat to Germany in the fifth-place semifinals did not allow them to progress as much as they’d have hoped and the Black Devils had to settle for a one-place rise to 28th and a cumulative gain of 1.31 points.

Defeat for Poland means they are now in danger of losing their place in the Rugby Europe Championship. Poland will be relegated as long as the winner of the Rugby Europe Men’s Trophy 2023-24 meets the Rugby Europe Championship entry criteria for 2025.

With 1.76 points lost throughout a winless campaign, Poland have moved backwards in the rankings from 33rd to 36th.

Switzerland remain on course for top spot in the Rugby Europe Men’s Trophy having won all three of their games to date.

However, they had this weekend off and there was only one match in Europe’s third-tier competition – a 37-22 win for Croatia against Lithuania, which has lifted them up one place in the rankings to 39th. The defeat cost Lithuania three places and they now occupy 45th place.

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