irb.com and James Mortimer 31.Jan.2014Getty Images
A victory by more than 15 points at the Stade de France will lift England to third, just four hundredths of a rating point above Australia. If they win by a smaller margin, England will close to within four tenths of the Wallabies.
Even if England fail to climb to third, Stuart Lancaster’s men could still hold a six-point cushion over the side below them – be that France or Wales – by the end of round one, strengthening their position as the leading northern hemisphere nation in the rankings.
England will retain that mantle even with an emphatic loss in ‘Le Crunch’, although their advantage over France would then be slashed to 1.27 points, a far cry from the 4.83 rating points they currently enjoy.
While England cannot fall in defeat, the same cannot be said for France, who could end the opening weekend of the Six Nations as low as seventh, depending on the margin of defeat and the results in Cardiff and Dublin.
Wales cannot improve their rating with victory over Italy at the Millennium Stadium in the opening match of the Championship, a consequence of being at home against a side ranked seven places lower in 13th.
The defending champions will climb to fifth with a victory and French defeat, but on the other hand they could drop another two places with a heavy loss to the Azzurri on home soil. Italy can climb two or three places with victory in Cardiff.
Seventh ranked Ireland can only improve their rating by just over six tenths with a victory by more than 15 points against Scotland, who sit two places below them, at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.
They could though end the weekend in fifth if other results go their way, while Scotland will fall one place – swapping places with Argentina – with any margin of defeat.