Ireland travel to Paris this weekend looking to make it back-to-back wins over their Rugby World Cup 2015 opponents France, a scenario which should secure the Six Nations title and a climb in the latest IRB World Rankings.
The Irish overwhelmed their England 2015 Pool D opponents Italy in Dublin last weekend to set up the mouth-watering finale to the 2014 Championship with Les Bleus at the Stade de France on Saturday.
Ireland haven’t beaten Les Bleus in France since 2000, but if they can end that run in Brian O’Driscoll’s final Six Nations match then they will become the higher-ranked of the two sides once more, a position they surrendered last weekend after France’s away win in Scotland.
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A win by more than 15 points could even see Ireland climb to fourth, although that would also require the rankings' leading northern hemisphere nation, England, to lose to Italy in Rome by the same margin.
The last two Six Nations matches between Ireland and France have ended in draws and a third stalemate in a row would still be enough to lift the Irish above their hosts in the rankings, not to mention hand the title to England if they beat Italy earlier in the day.
An England victory will have no impact on their rating, a consequence of being 10 places and more than 13 rating points above the Azzurri. Italy, though, could rise at least two places if they can record a first ever win over England.
Wales, like Italy, will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing result when they finish their campaign against Scotland. A win at the Millennium Stadium will be enough to lift Wales one place in the rankings, unless France and Ireland play out another draw.
Scotland cannot fall from 10th position even with an emphatic loss in Cardiff, but if they can end the Six Nations with two wins from five then they could end the Championship as the higher IRB-ranked of the two nations. For that to happen, Scotland would have to win by more than 15 points – something they haven’t done since 1993. This scenario which would lift them to eighth, one place above the Welsh. A smaller margin of victory and Scotland will swap places with Argentina.
Eastern European pride at stake
While two Rugby World Cup 2015 opponents come face to face at the Stade de France, the battle to determine the Europe 1 and 2 qualifiers comes to an exciting conclusion in Tbilisi with Georgia and Romania meeting in the European Nations Cup 2014 title decider.
The two sides have already qualified for England 2015, but this match - streamed live on www.rugbyworldcup.com - will determine who joins defending champions New Zealand in Pool C (Europe 1) and France and Ireland in Pool D (Europe 2) with the traditional rivals both undefeated in the FIRA European Nations Cup 1A competition spanning back over the past two years.
Romania currently head the standings after Georgia’s failure to pick up a try-bonus point against Spain last weekend, but the Lelos are the higher ranked of the two nations in 16th, although only by 1.22 rating points.
Both sides can climb to 15th in the rankings come the final whistle, although only with victories by more than 15 points. A smaller margin of victory will be enough to lift Romania above their hosts, but defeat will not be enough to see them slip below the USA.
Russia have already guaranteed a third place finish – to remain in the hunt to join Georgia and Romania at RWC 2015 – and finish their ENC campaign against Belgium in Brussels. A win will continue to reduce the gap to USA above them but defeat could cost them a one or two place fall in the rankings list.
Belgium are on the verge of relegation back to Division 1B and even a big upset win over Russia may not be enough, depending on what happens in the match between Iberian rivals Portugal and Spain in Lisbon. A win though could lift Belgium as many as four places to 25th.
Spain and Portugal have swapped places after every ENC round in 2014 and currently sit 21st and 22nd respectively. If Portugal can triumph on home soil they will again become the higher ranked of the neighbours, potentially climbing two places to 20th.
Defeat will see Spain fall two places, but a victory by more than 15 points would be enough to lift them above Uruguay. Portugal would fall two places to 24th if they lose to Spain on home soil for the first time since 1995.
The IRB World Rankings update every Monday at 12:00 UK time