WORLD RANKINGS: Ireland close gap on Boks in a big way
NEWS: South Africa’s lead at the top of World Rugby’s Rankings has been reduced after Round One of this season’s Six Nations.
The Springboks led Ireland by 3.97 ranking points before the weekend started.
However, Ireland’s big 38-17 win over France in Marseille on Friday has cut the gap to just 2.43 points.
After their defeat, France are now in a vulnerable position in fourth spot with England and Scotland not too far behind.
England remain in fifth place after being pushed all the way by Italy in Rome before securing a 27-24 victory, while Scotland are one place behind them in sixth after hanging on to win in Cardiff for the first time in 22 years.
Scotland surged into a 27-0 lead but Wales threatened to pull off the biggest comeback in Six Nations history in a stirring second-half performance.
In the end, Wales fell one point short with the 26-27 defeat costing them 1.02 points.
While they remain in eighth place, Wales’ rating has now dropped below 80 points to 79.62 points.
Meanwhile, Belgium, some 18.20 points and 16 places below Portugal in the rankings, caused a huge shock on Saturday when they beat Os Lobos 10-6 in the opening round of the 2024 Men’s Rugby Europe Championship.
Both teams went into the match with new head coaches but it was Belgium’s Laurent Dossat, not Daniel Hourcade who got off to a winning start despite Os Lobos being overwhelming favourites to build on the progress they had made at Rugby World Cup 2023.
All the points at the Stade Charles Tondreau in Mons came in the first half with Belgium scoring the only try of the game through flyhalf Hugo De Francq.
Belgium’s first victory over Portugal since 2017 has moved them up three places in the rankings to 26th with Switzerland and the Netherlands dropping a place as a result, while Portugal have dropped three places to 16th.
The Netherlands were one kick away from emulating their neighbours in pulling off a shock win, but a last-gasp penalty attempt went wide and Spain were relieved to come away from Amsterdam with a 20-18 victory in Pablo Bouza’s first match in charge.
The 0.60 points that Spain picked up in victory was enough to move them above Romania and into 19th place because the Oaks only received 0.12 points for their hard-fought 20-8 win over Poland in the fourth and final fixture of the weekend.
That leaves Spain on 63.46 points with Romania marginally behind them on 63.40 points.
Georgia, meanwhile, began life under new head coach Richard Cockerill by labouring to a 28-17 victory against Germany in Dessau.
The Lelos had become accustomed to winning matches against Germany by 50 points or more in the past, but were way below their best on this occasion, although Merab Sharikadze did mark his 100th test appearance with a try.
Georgia did not gain any additional points for the win but with Portugal’s total dropping below theirs, to 70.78 points compared to 72.68, the Lelos move up one place to 13th.