Japan take on Rugby World Cup 2015 Pool B opponents Samoa in Tokyo on Friday knowing that victory over the Pacific Islanders would edge them closer to IRB World Rankings Top 10 – as well as giving them a psychological boost ahead of their showdown in Milton Keynes next year.
The Brave Blossoms qualified for RWC 2015 after retaining their Asian 5 Nations crown with a comfortable 49-8 win over Hong Kong last weekend, and are currently on a six-match winning streak under head coach Eddie Jones.
Only twice have they beaten Samoa though, home or away - 31-23 in Apia, on 19 June, 2010 and 37-34 in Tokyo on 22 May, 1999. But a third win – by any margin - would see them move one place up the table into 12th at the expense of Tonga. If beaten, Samoa would be replaced in 8th by Argentina.
Should Samoa win, as they have done on their last five visits to Japan, they will stay put as the points differential between themselves and France is too large for them to make up any ground irrespective of the scoreline. If that was the case, Japan would drop below Italy in the rankings to 14th.
A shock win for Finland over Bosnia & Herzegovina in the only outstanding match in European Nations Cup 2D would move them off the foot of the rankings table to 100th place and relegate Mauritius and Greece to their lowest-ever rankings positions of 102nd and 103rd respectively.
Defeat for Bosnia & Herzegovina, who are chasing a bonus-point win to wrestle the ENC 2D title off Luxembourg, would result in a drop of five places to 91st. Alternatively, a win, of any sort, would put them ahead of Slovenia in 85th by 0.05 of a point.