All Blacks eyeing off four years at top of world rankings
irb.com and James Mortimer 03 Nov 2013 Getty Images
Whoever emerges victorious from England’s encounter with Australia at Twickenham on Saturday will occupy third place in the IRB World Rankings come Monday.
England currently occupy that position with a 1.51 rating point cushion over their visitors and will increase that advantage – while also closing the gap to South Africa in second – if they can avenge last year’s 20-14 loss to the Wallabies.
A first win over England for coach Ewen McKenzie, though, will see Australia return to the third place they lost during The Rugby Championship and re-establish the southern hemisphere dominance of the top three positions in the IRB World Rankings.
Whatever the margin of defeat England or Australia cannot slip below fourth place.
While the matches at Twickenham and Tokyo will grab the headlines, there are six other matches over the weekend on the same two continents that could have an impact on the rankings.
Poland have already suffered a 25-20 loss to the lower ranked Madagascar in the Serendib International Cup in Sri Lanka this week and will be looking to beat their hosts in the final match of three-team tournament on Friday to minimise any fall.
Back-to-back defeats could see 28th ranked Poland slide around five places with Madagascar and Sri Lanka likely to climb a couple of places each, depending on the results of teams around them.
Elsewhere, Israel will be hoping to bounce back from seeing their involvement in the RWC 2015 qualification process ended last weekend by a heavy loss to the Netherlands by beating Denmark in the European Nations Cup Division 2B.
A win on the road could potentially recoup all of the six places they lost last week, but defeat to a side ranked 12 places below them could see Israel slip further down the rankings.
Croatia host the higher ranked Switzerland in a Division 2A encounter and, despite 11 places currently separating the opponents, the home side could end the weekend as the higher ranked team if they taste victory.
The other Division 2A match sees Malta travel to Lithuania, a side ranked three places above them in 46th. Lithuania could rise as many as four places with victory, but Malta could enjoy a climb nearly double that if they win by more than 15 points.
The final European Nations Cup match on Saturday is also part of the region’s qualification process for RWC 2015 with Ukraine hosting Sweden. Both sides will be desperate for a win after losing last time out but Ukraine have most to lose with a fall of around eight places with a heavy loss.
The weekend’s other match is a one-off between Belgium and Tunisia in Tubize. With Belgium ranked 25th – 18 places above their visitors – a victory will have no impact on the ratings of either side.
A Tunisian win, though, could see them jump as many as eight places and condemn their hosts to a fall of around half that, although much will depend on other results with so many of the teams in action ranked around each other.