Fourth spot will be on the line in the IRB World Rankings this weekend with present incumbents England, their opponents Ireland and France all in the mix as the RBS Six Nations returns for round three.
England will retain the mantle as the leading northern hemisphere nation in the rankings if they emerge victorious over Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday, but lose and the door opens to their conquerors and France.
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IRB STATISTICAL MATCH PREVIEWS: WAL v FRA / ITA v SCO / ENG v IRE
If England lose narrowly then a French victory by more than 15 points over Wales at the Millennium Stadium in the Championship’s only Friday match will see them climb into fourth place, behind the southern hemisphere triumvirate of New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.
Ireland would stay sixth in this scenario, but can jump two places to fourth if they record a more emphatic victory at Twickenham and remain on course for the Grand Slam, regardless of the margin of a French victory in Cardiff.
Wales can improve their position of seventh, albeit only by bouncing back from their heavy loss to Ireland a fortnight ago by inflicting the same defeat on the previously unbeaten French in the first match of round three.
The weekend’s other match is the battle of the two sides yet to taste victory in 2014 with Scotland travelling to Rome to face Italy. Scotland are the higher ranked in 10th and a victory away from home will condemn Italy to a one place fall to 14th with Japan the beneficiaries.
Scotland need to win by more than 15 points to climb above Argentina, but lose by the same margin and they would drop two places to 12th and equal their lowest ever position since the rankings were introduced in October 2003.
In this scenario, Sergio Parisse’s men would jump three places back into the world’s top 10. A win by a smaller margin at the Stadio Olimpico would still be enough for the Azzurri to climb one place, at the expense of Tonga.
RWC 2015 places within reach
The Six Nations is not the only competition this weekend that could have an impact on the IRB World Rankings with three matches taking place in the European Nations Cup Division 1A with Georgia and Romania on the verge of qualifying for Rugby World Cup 2015.
Both sides are at home with Georgia welcoming neighbours Russia to Tbilisi and Romania hosting Spain in Cluj and know that victories will give them an unassailable lead in the standings and leave them just to fight for who qualifies as Europe 1 or Europe 2.
Neither can improve their rating with victories over lower ranked opponents, but can slip from their position of 16th and 17th respectively with defeats, although Georgia would have to lose by more than 15 points to join Romania in slipping below the USA.
Russia’s last visit to Georgia ended in a 46-0 defeat, but if the Bears can deny the Lelos a 13th consecutive victory in the head-to-head then they could improve their rating by as much as three points, closing what is currently a six-point plus deficit to the side above them in 18th.
Spain could return to the top 20 if they can hand Romania their first loss the two-year competition, but defeat will see them slip below Portugal again if their neighbours are victorious on their trip to Belgium in the other Division 1A match.
Another defeat for Belgium will continue their slip down the rankings, falling one place to 29th with Moldova the beneficiaries, but if they can upset the higher ranked Portugal then they can rise three places and potentially sit just behind their visitors.
The IRB World Rankings update every Monday at 12:00 UK time.
- Thursday 20 February 2014 - World Rankings
Trio target fourth place in rankings
- Monday 10 February 2014 - World Rankings
Ireland and Spain on rise in rankings
- Friday 7 February 2014 - World Rankings
Scotland with plenty to gain in rankings
- Monday 3 February 2014 - World Rankings
Scotland and Spain fall in rankings
- 10 March - Jaque Fourie profile
- 09 March - Ben Gollings and Waisale Serevi on rugby in Brazil
- 08 March - Sandrine Agricole on France women's Six Nations campaign
- 7 March - England v Wales: Rugby World Cup memories and dreams
- 07 March - Andy Robinson looks ahead to the penultimate round of the Six Nations