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World Rankings: Ireland to close gap on Boks...again?

SPOTLIGHT: World Rugby has published all the possible permutations ahead of the fourth round of the Six Nations and the resumption of the Rugby Europe Men’s Trophy.

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Plenty will be riding on the match between Italy and Scotland with both teams hoping to build on good results in Round Three.

A draw in Lille against France enabled Italy to end that 11-year wait for a top 10 spot. However no sooner have they got into that elite group, they’re in danger of being out of it again because a 14th straight defeat for Italy against Scotland, a run which dates back to 2015, would see them drop back down to 11th.

On the flipside, the Azzurri could equal their best-ever ranking of eighth – a position they enjoyed twice, for one week only, in 2007.

To do this, Italy must beat Scotland by more than 15 points and hope Wales suffer the same fate against France in Cardiff on Sunday.

Wales will drop to ninth in this scenario, leaving them ranked below the Azzurri for the first time since February 2013. A smaller margin of victory will still be enough to lift the Azzurri above Australia into ninth, condemning the Wallabies to their equal lowest ranking of 10th.

As for Scotland, a win by more than 15 points in Rome, which they last achieved in a 17-0 victory in 2020, accompanied by defeats for England and France, will result in Gregor Townsend’s team climbing to a new high of fourth.

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Scotland can still break new ground with a smaller margin of victory if England and France are both on the wrong side of heavy defeats.

Even if France win, a Scotland victory in Rome will still see them climb one place to fifth should England also lose to top-of-the-table Ireland at Twickenham. England can fall no lower than sixth this weekend.

Ireland cannot overhaul South Africa at the top of the rankings but if they do win comprehensively, the gap would be down to 1.56 points.

An England victory, on what could be replacement scrumhalf Danny Care’s 100th Test appearance, will be enough for them to leapfrog France and move into fourth place – as long as Les Bleus avoid defeat against Wales a day later.

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Ireland are safe in second even if they lose by a big margin.

If England win by more than 15 points and France fail to match that margin in victory against Wales a day later, then England will also be the higher-ranked of the two teams.

With just under a point available to them in victory, France cannot catch New Zealand in third.

Wales are guaranteed to climb above Argentina in victory but cannot move any higher than seventh this weekend, while France could drop as low as sixth if they are beaten in Cardiff and other results go against them.

Meanwhile, the Rugby Europe Men’s Trophy 2023-24 resumes with Switzerland looking to make it three wins out of three against a Czechia side who are always strong at home.

As the higher-ranked team by eight places and more than five points, the rewards on offer for a Swiss win in this top-of-the-table encounter are slim. The most Oliver Nier’s side can gain is 1.15 points but they’d still be stuck in 26th place behind Russia.

A defeat of that magnitude would cost Czechia three places and lead to them falling to 37th.

On the other hand, Czechia can climb by a maximum of two places to 32nd in victory, with just three places between the teams if that happens.

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