Wales travel to Twickenham for the last time before Rugby World Cup 2015 knowing that victory over England in their Six Nations encounter on Sunday could lift them to fourth in the IRB World Rankings.
The Welsh are currently sixth and two places behind their RWC 2015 Pool A opponents, but can take over the mantle of the leading northern hemisphere nation in the rankings if they win by more than 15 points.
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A win by a lesser margin at the home of English rugby will be enough to lift Wales into fifth spot, regardless of what happens in the other two Six Nations matches which see France face Scotland at Murrayfield and Ireland host Italy at the Aviva Stadium.
Only 0.16 rating points currently separate Ireland in fifth from France in seventh and the Irish face the prospect of falling two places as victory over the Azzurri will have no impact on their rating, a consequence of being at home against a side currently ranked 14th.
The Irish will fall those two places if Wales and France both win their round four matches. Wales will be the higher ranked of the trio in this instance as they will gain more for beating the higher ranked England away than France will for winning at the lower ranked Scotland.
A defeat would hit Welsh hopes of becoming the first to win three successive titles in the Six Nations era and, in the event of a France win in Scotland, would see them slip behind the side they beat in the last round a fortnight ago.
France, who slipped two places to seventh on the back of that Cardiff defeat, cannot slide any further if they suffer a first defeat at the hands of Scotland since 2006, but the Scots could climb two places to eighth with a win over their visitors.
Scotland could slip from their current position of 10th if Italy cause an upset at the Aviva Stadium. Italy beat their RWC 2015 opponents Ireland in Rome last year and if they can repeat that then they could climb as many as four places back into the top 10.
Simple target for Russia
Meanwhile in the European Nations Cup, with Georgia and Romania having already confirmed their places at Rugby World Cup 2015, the crucial match this weekend is the one in Sochi between Russia and Portugal.
Victory for Russia will guarantee them third place in Division 1A and keep them in the hunt for a RWC 2015 place, the Bears needing to beat either the Division 1B winner or the Netherlands to earn a place in the Repechage later in the year.
Russia currently have a seven-point cushion over Portugal, but defeat will ensure the battle for third place goes right down to the final match next weekend. The Bears are the higher ranked of the two in 19th, but defeat could see them swap places and assume Portugal’s current spot of 21st.
If Russia do emerge victorious in a match coach Kingsley Jones has described as “probably the most important game for Russia in a long, long time”, then they will remain 19th, but reduce the deficit to USA above them which currently stands at more than six rating points.
Georgia travel to Spain to face a side they have scored 60 points or more against in two of their last three meetings. A similar outcome won’t improve Georgia’s ranking of 16th, but can bring them to within eight tenths of Canada above.
Spain could still climb from 22nd in defeat, depending on the outcome of Portugal’s match in Russia.
Romania, who currently sit second behind Georgia in the Division 1A standings on point differential, welcome bottom side Belgium to Constanta. The Oaks have never lost to Belgium and cannot improve their rating with another victory, leaving them 17th in the rankings.
Belgium need a win to keep alive hopes of avoiding relegation back to Division 1B and if they can pull off the biggest shock in this Division 1A campaign then they could jump four places in the rankings, regaining the ground lost with recent defeats.
The IRB World Rankings update very Monday at 12:00 UK time.