Several teams get the chance for one last hit-out this weekend before flying to Japan for Rugby World Cup 2019 and potentially improve their rankings.
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One of the most memorable matches in Rugby World Cup history is re-enacted in Kumagaya City on Friday as 2019 hosts Japan take on two-time winners South Africa, who they famously defeated at the last tournament in England to fuel an upsurge in the sport's popularity in Asia.
The match at the 26,500-capacity Kumagaya Rugby Stadium brings together two in-form teams that have taken silverware home in the past month, Japan claiming their third World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup title to equal their highest position in the rankings of ninth, while the Springboks claimed the Rugby Championship trophy.
Elsewhere, Scotland clash with Georgia at Murrayfield while Conor O'Shea's Italy head to HQ to face England. Further South, New Zealand host Tonga and Samoa visit the Wallabies down under in David Pocock's final home test.
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On Saturday, Ireland take on Wales for the second weekend in a row with both teams knowing they're in with a chance of overhauling New Zealand at the top of the World Rugby Men's Rankings. New Zealand are also in action, at home to Tonga in Hamilton, while Canada and the USA renew their rivalry in Vancouver and Australia play Samoa in Sydney.
Here are the weekend's ranking permutations.
JAPAN (10) V SOUTH AFRICA (5)
- South Africa will swap places with Wales if they win and the Welsh lose by more than 15 points to Ireland
- Second place is possible for South Africa, but this also needs England to lose to Italy and New Zealand to lose to Tonga by more than 15 points
- The Springboks cannot fall any lower than their current position of fifth
- Japan will climb above Fiji if they beat South Africa
- A Japanese win by more than 15 points, combined with defeat for Scotland against Georgia, would lift the Brave Blossoms to an all-time high of eighth
- Eighth is also possible if Japan win by a smaller margin so long as Scotland lose by more than 15 points
SCOTLAND (7) V GEORGIA (12)
- Scotland cannot climb any higher than their present position of seventh
- They will, though, drop below France if Georgia avenge last weekend’s defeat
- If they lose by more than 15 points – or Japan beat South Africa by that margin – then Scotland will fall to ninth
- Georgia must win by more than 15 points to climb above Argentina
- The Lelos will be overtaken by Italy if they lose and the Azzurri beat England
ENGLAND (3) v ITALY (13)
- A victorious England can only move up to second if both Ireland and New Zealand lose
- England will swap places again with South Africa if they lose and the Springboks avoid defeat against Japan
- Italy will replace Georgia in 12th if they win and the Lelos lose to Scotland
- Wins for USA and Tonga would see a beaten Italy slip down the rankings to 15th
- Combine the above with a Samoan victory by more than 15 points and the Azzurri would fall to their lowest ever ranking of 16th
NEW ZEALAND (1) V TONGA (15)
- Four of the five previous meetings between the sides have been at Rugby World Cups
- New Zealand cannot improve their rating with victory over Tonga – meaning they will lose top spot if Ireland win or Wales triumph by more than 15 points in Dublin
- New Zealand could drop as low as fifth if they lose by more than 15 points and other results go against them
- In this scenario, Tonga can climb as high as 12th
- Tonga can fall one place in defeat, but only if Samoa beat Australia
AUSTRALIA (6) V SAMOA (16)
- Australia cannot improve their rating or position even with an emphatic victory
- Samoa cannot climb the rankings with a narrow victory unless the teams above them lose
- Samoa could gain as many as three places and move up to 13th – their highest position for more than four years – but it would need a weekend of upsets for that to happen
IRELAND (2) v WALES (4)
- With New Zealand unable to improve their rating with victory over Tonga, Ireland can climb to the top for first time if they beat Wales
- A draw would be enough to do this if New Zealand fail to beat Tonga
- Wales would drop to fifth in defeat if South Africa win by more than 15 points – unless England lose to Italy
- Wales will climb to second in victory or return to top spot if they win by more than 15
- The sides will swap places if Wales win and New Zealand, England and South Africa also triumph by less than 15 points
- Ireland will drop to fifth if they lose by more than 15 points and South Africa and England both win.
CANADA (21) V USA (14)
- USA will climb one place if they win and Italy lose to England
- USA will drop below Tonga if they lose to Canada, even if the ‘Ikale Tahi are also beaten
- If Samoa also stun Australia then USA will drop another place to 16th
- Canada will fall one place in defeat, two if by more than 15 points which would mean they enter RWC 2019 as the lowest ranked of the 20 teams
- Canada cannot catch Russia above even if they triumph by more than 15 points
Via: World Rugby