Top four spot at stake in world rankings

(IRB.COM) Friday 10 February 2012
 
 Top four spot at stake in world rankings
Brian O'Driscoll scored a hat-trick in Ireland's last Six Nations win on French soil

With the IRB World Rankings to determine which band the 12 automatic qualifiers for Rugby World Cup 2015 will fall into for the Pool Allocation Draw later this year, every match takes on added significance in 2012.

France would be the envy of their European rivals were the draw to take place today, their top four ranking ensuring they would be in the first band of seeds and therefore avoid being drawn in the same pool as New Zealand, Australia or South Africa.

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With so much Test rugby to be played between now and the internationals in November and December when the three bands are finalised, there is plenty of scope for change as the second weekend of the RBS Six Nations highlights.

France will relinquish third place to South Africa if they suffer defeat to Ireland, but could also fall out of the coveted top four positions depending on the margin of defeat and England’s result in Italy.

A loss by more than 15 points would not only drop France below a victorious England side but also Ireland, leaving them sixth. An emphatic English win in Rome, something they haven’t managed on their last two visits, will see them climb to fourth regardless of the margin of a French defeat.

Ireland are currently eighth in the rankings, having slipped two places with defeat to Wales last weekend, but a win by more than 15 points at Stade de France and an England defeat in Rome will rocket Declan Kidney’s side into the top four.

The Irish, though, have not beaten Les Bleus on home soil since a 27-25 win in 2000 and if France continue their extend their run of victories then they will improve their rating by up to 0.23 rating points. Ireland will remain eighth and at least 2.39 points above Tonga.

VIEW IRB MATCH PREVIEW: FRANCE V IRELAND >>

VIEW IRB MATCH PREVIEW: ITALY V ENGLAND >>

VIEW IRB MATCH PREVIEW: WALES V SCOTLAND >>

England’s gain for beating Italy will be bigger with an emphatic win closing their deficit to fourth ranked South Africa to potentially 1.3 points. Italy will remain 12th with defeat, slipping closer into Japan’s clutches.

A first ever Italian victory over England can improve their current position, albeit only if Scotland lose to Wales on Sunday or the Azzurri win by more than 15 points at the Stadio Olimpico. If both these criteria happen, then Italy would also climb above Samoa into 10th.

An Italian climb will mean that Scotland slip to a new low of 12th in the IRB World Rankings, making them the lowest placed side of the 12 nations already confirmed for Rugby World Cup 2015 in England.

A win over Scotland will not guarantee Wales another climb in the rankings, Warren Gatland’s charges having risen two places to six with their last-minute 23-21 win over Ireland last weekend.

Unless, that is, England lose to Italy which will see the Welsh rise to fifth. A first defeat to Scotland since 2007, though, could prove extremely costly for Wales and even see them fall out of what would be the second band of seeds for the Pool Allocation draw.

For Wales to plummet to ninth they would have to lose by more than 15 points before their home crowd at the Millennium Stadium, an outcome which would see Scotland swiftly return to the top 10 and a ranking of eighth.

European Nations Cup focus


It is not only the Six Nations, though, which could have an impact on the IRB World Rankings this weekend with two matches in the top tier of the European Nations Cup as Spain host defending champions Georgia and Russia travelling to Lisbon to face Portugal. A third, Ukraine's visit to Romania, has fallen victim to the weather.

Portugal will be looking to bounce back from a 15-7 loss to Romania last weekend with victory over the higher ranked Russia, a result which could lift them up to three places to 21st, depending on the margin of victory and the outcome of Spain v Georgia match.

Twentieth ranked Russia will drop below Portugal with defeat, but on the other hand will climb above Namibia if they can taste victory in their first match since Rugby World Cup 2011 and under new head coach Kingsley Jones.

Georgia continue to set the pace in the European Nations Cup and will be eager to take to the pitch in Spain after last weekend’s encounter with Ukraine fell victim to the weather. The defending champions, now coached by New Zealanders Milton Haig and Chris Gibbs, cannot improve their position of 14th with victory, but can inch closer to Canada above.

Spain could still retain their 22nd position even with a heavy loss, depending on Portugal’s result, but if they can hand Georgia their first defeat of the 2012 European Nations Cup then a place in the top 20 for the first time beckons.

The Lelos ran out convincing 60-0 winners in their meeting this time last year, but if Spain can turn the tables they could condemn Georgia to a fall of up to two places, depending on the margin of victory.

The IRB World Rankings update every Monday at 12:00 UK time.