Six Nations: Ireland can be knocked off the top of the World Rugby rankings in round one

Ireland’s place on top of the World Rugby rankings goes on the line this weekend in the opening round of the Six Nations.

Andy Farrell’s side head into the weekend as the top-ranked side, but anything less than a win could see them drop below France and as low as fourth.

Here is how the opening weekend of the Six Nations could impact the World Rugby rankings.

France could go top

A shake of the top four is on the cards this weekend, with France and New Zealand capable of topping the ranks if results go their way.

However, it is all in Ireland’s hands as a win over Wales on Saturday would cement their place on top of the rankings. It will not be easy as they have not beaten Wales in Cardiff in 10 years.

An Ireland loss or even a draw, paired with a France win, will send Fabien Gatlhie’s side back to the summit of the rankings – a position they occupied for a solitary week in July 2022. If Ireland falls to a defeat at the hands of Wales, a draw with Italy would be enough for France to go top.

Despite not playing this weekend, New Zealand could find themselves on top of the rankings in the unlikely case that both Ireland and France lose to the lower-ranked Wales and Italy. In this scenario, South Africa would move up to second place.

Ireland will not fall out of the top four but could slip as low as fourth in defeat to Warren Gatland’s charges. They will escape with a two-place drop if Les Bleus lose by the same margin to Italy as Ireland does in Wales. 

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Calcutta Cup

Fourth-placed England cannot move into the top two this weekend due to the rating difference.

The result at Twickenham will decide who wins the Calcutta Cup and who will be the highest-ranked of the two sides. Victory for Gregor Towsend’s men will see Scotland become the higher-ranked side with a two-place jump to fifth.

Fifth would be Scotland’s joint highest ranking which they occupied in May 2018. If Steve Borthwick’s side suffers a defeat of more than 15 points, England will drop below Australia.

Italy to return to the top 10?

The Azzurri could return to the top 10 if they beat France and end the chances of Les Bleus’ back-to-back Grand Slams.

It would be the first time since June 2013 that Italy featured in the top 10.

A win over France would see Italy leapfrog Samoa and Japan, while a win by more than 15 points would see them move into ninth place, if Wales lost by the same margin to Ireland.

A draw against Les Blues would see Italy move into 11th place at the expense of Samoa. 

Finally, Wales must beat Ireland by more than 15 points to move ahead of eighth-placed Argentina. Gatland’s charges could move into seventh if their win is paired with an England win of the same margin.

Current World Rugby Rankings (as of 03/02/2023)

1. Ireland 90.63

2. France 90.01

3. New Zealand 88.98

4. South Africa 88.97

5. England 83.66

6. Australia 81.80

7. Scotland 81.55

8. Argentina 80.72

9. Wales 78.09

10. Japan 77.39

11. Samoa 76.03

12. Italy 75.95

13. Georgia 75.19

14. Fiji 74.84

15. Tonga 71.21

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