irb.com and James Mortimer 26.Feb.2013Getty Images
England, chasing a Grand Slam, will overtake Australia and South Africa if they achieve this goal with a handsome final round victory over Wales.
Wales continued their climb back up the IRB World Rankings with a one-place elevation to sixth on the back of their victory in Italy and Ireland’s loss to Scotland in round three of the RBS 6 Nations.
The Welsh had slipped to 10th – equalling their lowest ever ranking – before ending an eight-match losing streak with victory over France a fortnight ago, but now sit just under half a rating point below France in fifth.
However, had Ireland not slipped to a 12-8 loss to Scotland at Murrayfield a day later – despite enjoying more than 70 per cent possession – then Wales would have remained seventh after the 26-9 win over Italy.
Ireland’s second defeat of the Championship now leaves them just over half a rating point above Samoa and Argentina below them, while back-to-back wins for Scotland mean they are within a point of the Irish now.
Scotland remain 10th and now have Tonga beneath them after Italy fell one place to 12th on the back of the Welsh defeat. The Azzurri, though, are still more than three rating points above Fiji below them.
England have also strengthened their position as the leading northern hemisphere nation in the rankings following the 23-13 win over France at Twickenham. They now sit just over four points above France and are gradually closing the deficit to Australia above.
The biggest climbers of the week, though, were Portugal who rose two places to 21st after beating Belgium 18-12 in Lisbon for their first win of the European Nations Cup 2014 Division 1A, a competition which will determine the region’s two qualifiers for Rugby World Cup 2015.
Portugal swap places with the side they beat in Lisbon as the only two positional changes as a result of the third round of Division 1A matches over the weekend.
Defending champions Georgia have strengthened their position in 17th by beating hosts Russia 23-9 in Sochi, while 18th-ranked Romania increased the cushion over Spain below them after winning their encounter 25-15 in Gijon.