Ireland’s place on top of the World Rugby rankings is on the line in round two of the Six Nations when they host France in Dublin.
Andy Farrell’s side rocketed to the top of the world rankings after sealing a 2-1 series victory over New Zealand last July and have since maintained their position.
Ireland v France ranking permutations
However, they will face their biggest task in retaining top spot this weekend when they host second-place France at the Aviva Stadium.
Defeat in round one of the Six Nations to Wales would have seen Ireland drop in the rankings, but they comprehensively swept Warren Gatland’s charges aside.
This weekend, a draw would be enough for Fabien Galthie’s side to move above Ireland, but only by a margin of 0.05 of a rating point.
Victory for Les Bleus would see them go top with 91.38 points, clear of Ireland’s 89.33, while a win of more than 15 points will see France sit at 92.06 and Ireland at 88.64.
If France do win by more than 15 points, Ireland will fall to fourth place, with New Zealand moving into second and South Africa third. A narrow win for Les Bleus would see Ireland slip just one place to second.
A narrow victory for the hosts would see them increase their cushion over the defending Six Nations champions to 1.95 points, while a win by over 15 points would give Ireland a 2.58 points buffer.
The gap from the top four
New Zealand (88.98) and South Africa (88.97) will not drop from their current rankings of third and fourth, respectively, regardless of the results this weekend.
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Scotland’s win over England last weekend saw them equal their best-ever ranking, but a win in round two will not see them move into a new best of fourth.
Even with a victory of over 15 points, Gregor Townsend’s side will still be five rankings points off the Springboks. However, they cannot lose fifth place if they beat Wales, as England will not gain enough points by defeating the lower-ranked Italy.
A draw or defeat could see Scotland slip in the rankings, though. A draw paired with a win for England of more than 15 points over Italy would see Scotland drop to sixth.
They could fall back to seventh, the position they started the Six Nations if they lose to Wales and England overcome the Azzurri at Twickenham.
Australia in the top five?
If Scotland and England lose this weekend, Australia will move up two places in the world rankings into fifth spot behind their Southern Hemisphere rivals.
Meanwhile, Gatland’s Wales could rebound in the ranks with a three-place jump, to sixth, on the cards. They would need to defeat Scotland by more than 15 points and need England to lose by more than 15 to Italy.
Wales need at least a win of 16 points to move up the rankings; anything less would see them remain in their current position, ninth.
Azzurri could return to the top 10
It’s been 10 long years since Italy were last in the top 10 of the World Rugby rankings, but they could make their return this weekend if they beat England for the first time in a Six Nations match.
Italy are currently ranked 12th, but a win over the Red Rose, even by a single point, would elevate them above Samoa (11th) and Japan (10th).
England have defeated Italy in all 29 of the two sides’ official Test matches, but if the Azzurri claim another historic win, it will catapult them back up to their highest ranking since June 2013.
If Steve Borthwick’s side falls to a defeat of more than 15 points, and it is paired with a Wales win, England will slump to their lowest-ever ranking of ninth.
Elsewhere in the rankings, Georgia (13) cannot move ahead of Italy when they face off against the Netherlands in the Rugby Europe Championship. A defeat would see them drop below Fiji into 14th.
Latest World Rugby Rankings (as of 10/02/2023)
1. Ireland 90.70
2. France 90.01
3. New Zealand 88.98
4. South Africa 88.97
5. Scotland 83.06
6. England 82.15
7. Australia 81.80
8. Argentina 80.72
9. Wales 78.02
10. Japan 77.39
11. Samoa 76.03
12. Italy 75.95
13. Georgia 75.19
14. Fiji 74.84
15. Tonga 71.21