Germany travel to Amsterdam to face the Netherlands this weekend knowing that victory will virtually guarantee them the Division 2A title and promotion to the top tier of the European Nations Cup for the first time since 1981.
The Germans currently sit at the top the league with 17 points, albeit only on points difference from Belgium and Moldova. All three sides have one game remaining and Moldova and Belgium would need to win by huge margins to deny Germany the title, should they also secure a final victory.
Germany sits 19 places above the Netherlands at 26th in the IRB World Rankings and victory could see them climb as many as three places to a new high, depending on the winning margin and on the result of Korea's match against Japan in the Asian Five Nations.
Korea are currently ranked 23rd ahead of their meeting with Japan at the Incheon Munhak Sports Complex on Saturday, but lost 82-0 to John Kirwan’s side in the Asian Nations Series last April in Tokyo and a similar result could see Japan climb two places to 16th.
Georgia eye European title
The Japanese are not the highest ranked nation in action this weekend. Georgia (14) welcome Spain (21) to Tbilisi on Saturday in the top tier of the European Nations Cup. The Georgians currently lie second, one point behind Russia, so they know that victory over Spain will see Australian Tim Lane’s first season as coach end with silverware. However even a convincing win is unlikely to impact on either side’s ranking.
By contrast were Spain to repeat their 31-17 victory in Madrid last March – they are the only side to have beaten Georgia in this two-year competition – then they could climb one place to 20th and the Lelos drop as many as three places.
Hong Kong meanwhile could see their ranking improve from 30th with victory over the Arabian Gulf in the other match of the opening Asian Five Nations weekend. However were the Arabian Gulf to enjoy a first victory over Hong Kong since 2001, they could climb as many as five place to 41st.
European round up
Returning to Europe there are four more fixtures this weekend, although two of them – Slovenia v Israel in Ljubljana and Sweden v Serbia in Stockholm – are unlikely to impact the rankings if the home sides win as the opponents are separated by 35 places and over 10 rating points.
Slovenia, who climbed six places to 59th after defeating Luxembourg last weekend, beat 94th ranked Israel 28-5 in October 2006 and a similar victory will secure the Division 3C title as Luxembourg will be unable to overhaul the seven-point lead that would establish.
Sweden are in the same position as Slovenia in Division 3A in that victory over Serbia will also see them claim the title on home soil with Armenia unable to overturn what would be a eight point lead in their two remaining games, securing promotion to Division 2B for next season.
A victorious Swedish side could see their ranking improve were Latvia to beat Poland away from home, while even with victory Slovenia could actually slip slightly in the rankings were Barbados to beat the higher ranked Trinidad & Tobago in their Rugby World Cup 2011 qualifier.
However were Sweden and Slovenia to suffer defeats by the bottom sides in their respective Divisions then their rankings would inevitably fall, Sweden by a couple of places and Slovenia potentially by 10 places while Serbia could climb to 65th and Israel one place to 93rd.
Poland, who top the Division 2B standings, are ranked 11 places higher than their opponents Latvia in 37th and as such a repeat of the 33-9 victory when the sides last met would do little but improve their rating points to inch closer to the Czech Republic above them.
By contrast a win for Latvia would not only draw them level on points with Poland but also help reduce their far superior points differential, but could also see Latvia climb as many as eight places up the rankings and end up being the higher ranked of the two nations.
The final European Nations Cup encounter this weekend is between the bottom two sides in Division 3B – Austria and Norway and in Vienna. Austria are ranked two places above their visitors in 85th, but Norway won the pair’s last meeting 22-8 in June 2007.
Another win for Norway could see them potentially climb seven places to 80th and Austria fall five to 90th, while if Austria were to make the most of home advantage they could improve their ranking to 80th and cause Norway’s to fall three to 90th.
Caribbean rankings places up for grabs
The exact number of places the teams gain or lose will also depend on the outcome of Jamaica’s meeting with the Bahamas in the Bowl semi-final in the 2008 NAWIRA Caribbean Championships, which double as the first RWC 2011 qualifier.
Jamaica are ranked 10 places above their opponents in 80th, having fallen four places on the back of their loss to Guyana which ended their hopes of progressing in the World Cup qualifying process. They could gain back many of those places with a win, but fall further with defeat.
The other Bowl semi-final will not have any impact on the IRB World Rankings because while the Cayman Islands occupy 66th position, their opponents Mexico have not played the requisite 10 Test matches yet to acquire a ranking.
The two Cup semi-finals on Wednesday could though result in changes to the rankings with Trinidad & Tobago ranked nine places above Barbados in 51st and Bermuda four places above Guyana in 65th before they meet in Georgetown.
Another win for Trinidad & Tobago could see them climb a couple more places and Barbados fall as many as five to 65th, while a victory for Barbados would not only keep alive their hopes of progressing in the World Cup qualifier but also become the higher ranked of the two nations.
A win for Bermuda in the other Cup semi-final could see them climb six places to 59th, potentially one place behind Trinidad & Tobago were they to lose to Barbados, but by contrast a victory for Guyana would see them climb above their opponents.
The IRB World Rankings update every Monday at 12:00 UK time.