France will not only see their hopes of a second Grand Slam in three years disappear if they fail to beat Ireland in their re-arranged RBS Six Nations fixture on Sunday, but will also surrender their third place in the IRB World Rankings.
Les Bleus are the leading northern hemisphere nation in the rankings, having broken the southern hemisphere domination of the top three spots after reaching the RWC 2011 Final, and currently sit five places and 5.62 rating points above their visitors to the Stade de France.
A victory by more than 15 points on home soil can only increase their rating by just over two tenths, pushing France out to nearly a rating point above South Africa but still 2.69 points adrift of Australia in second spot.
Ireland cannot slip from eighth place – the lowest they have ever been since the rankings were introduced in October 2003 – even with a heavy loss as Declan Kidney’s men have a cushion of nearly three points to Tonga below them.
However, if Ireland end a run of four successive defeats at French hands and avoid defeat then they will edge ahead of Argentina into seventh spot and condemn France to a one-place fall to fourth with South Africa the beneficiaries.
The outcome will be the same if Ireland manage to win on French soil for the first time since 2000, unless they taste victory by more than 15 points, a scenario which would lift them above England into sixth and have more serious consequences for France.
An emphatic defeat would see France relinquish their top four ranking to Wales and therefore lose their place in what will be the top band of seeds for the Rugby World Cup 2015 Pool Allocation Draw at the end of the year.
- Monday 5 March 2012 - World Rankings
Ireland climb one as France fall in rankings
- Thursday 1 March 2012 - World Rankings
France put third spot on line in rankings
- Monday 27 February 2012 - World Rankings
Wales leapfrog England in rankings after win
- Friday 24 February 2012 - World Rankings
Battle for top four spot resumes in rankings