England will run out at the Millennium Stadium hoping to secure their first RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam since 2003 with victory over Wales, but if they fall at the final hurdle again then claiming the title will be the next target and not allowing their hosts to retain the silverware.
The one consolation for England is that whatever happens in Cardiff they cannot surrender their mantle as the leading northern hemisphere nation in the IRB World Rankings. They currently sit 3.52 rating points above Wales and that can only shrink to 0.36 points with a loss by more than 15 points.
On the other hand, a win by more than 15 points would see England cut the deficit to Australia to just 0.15 and also strengthen their hold on fourth with the gap to France – if they beat Scotland for a first win of the year – potentially passing five rating points.
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Wales could fall by as many as two places if they lose to England, depending on the results in France and Italy. If Les Bleus and Ireland both win then Wales would need to lose by more than 15 points and the Irish beat Italy by the same margin to drop the Welsh to seventh.
Ireland have never lost to Italy in the history of the Six Nations, but if the Azzurri build on their second half performance against England then a fall to their lowest every position since the IRB World Rankings were introduced in October 2003 is on the cards for the Irish.
Italy can only improve their position of 12th with a win by more than 15 points at the Stadio Olimpico as anything less would leave them four tenths behind Tonga. This could also close them to just a tenth behind Scotland if they suffer a heavy loss at the Stade de France later in the day.
Scotland have not tasted victory in the Championship on French soil since 1999, but if they can end that run – and condemn France to a first wooden spoon since 1957 – then a jump as high as sixth is possible depending on the margin of victory and other results.
Away from the RBS 6 Nations, the highlight of European Nations Cup 2014 action is the battle of the unbeaten teams in Division 1A with Romania hosting defending champions and traditional rivals Georgia to Bucharest on Saturday.
Key encounter on road to RWC 2015
Georgia, who have had a firm grip on the European Nations Cup silverware since Romania were crowned champions in 2006, are the highest ranked of the six nations in Division 1A, a mantle they will want to retain come the final whistle at the Stadionul National Arcul de Triumf.
A fifth victory of 2013 will ensure that happens and also lift Georgia above USA into 16th, but defeat – regardless of the margin – will see Romania climb above their rivals. In the event of a draw the sides would stay as they were, but Georgia’s advantage over Romania would increase slightly.
There is no danger of either Georgia or Romania sliding below 18th with even emphatic victories for Russia and Spain – on home soil against Belgium and Portugal respectively – will not be enough to overhaul the top two ranked teams in the European Nations Cup.
The six nations in Division 1A are ranked between 17th and 24th and for more changes to happen then Portugal and/or Belgium need to win on the road. If they can then a three or four place climb is possible for them both, while also seeing Spain and Russia fall out of the top 20.
There is one other European Nations Cup match this weekend that could have an impact on the IRB World Rankings with Moldova welcoming the Czech Republic to Chisinau on Saturday. Moldova, the higher ranked side at 39th, will climb one or two with victory.
The Czech Republic fell three places to their lowest ever ranking of 50th after losing to Germany last weekend, but a loss to Moldova will see them fall one or two places. An upset though will see the Czechs climb nine or 11 places and become the higher ranked of the two nations.
The IRB World Rankings update every Monday at 12:00 UK time.
- Monday 30 September 2013 - World Rankings
South Africa inch closer to rankings top spot
- Friday 27 September 2013 - World Rankings
Second within reach for Australia in rankings
- Monday 16 September 2013 - World Rankings
New Zealand increase rankings cushion at top
- Thursday 12 September 2013 - World Rankings
Ranking top spot at stake in Auckland
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