World rankings permutations: Record highs and lows possible during action-packed World Cup week

England flanker Courtney Lawes, Portugal hooker Mike Tadjer and Ireland skipper Johnny Sexton during the Rugby World Cup. Credit: Alamy
England flanker Courtney Lawes, Portugal hooker Mike Tadjer and Ireland skipper Johnny Sexton during the Rugby World Cup. Credit: Alamy

Ireland put their number one world ranking on the line when they face South Africa in their Rugby World Cup Pool B clash on Saturday.

Ahead of the third batch of fixtures, Planet Rugby runs through the World Rugby ranking permutations with the top 10 places set for a potential shake-up.

Top 10 shake-up

A win of any kind for South Africa in Paris on Saturday will see the Springboks move ahead of Andy Farrell’s side at the summit of the rankings.

If they succeed in doing so, Ireland’s 14-month reign as world number one will end with a potential drop to third if France are victorious over Namibia.

The World Cup hosts will not earn any ranking points by beating Namibia because of the 28.98 rating points between the sides.

A stalemate will see Ireland continue their run as the top-ranked side, but their lead would be cut to just 0.09 rating points.

If Farrell’s side defeats the defending world champions by more than 15 points, their cushion over South Africa will grow to as much as 6.05 ratings points, with the Boks dropping to third place behind a victorious France.

If Namibia seals a shock win over France, Les Bleus will drop below New Zealand into fourth place – their lowest possible place regardless of the other results this week.


Scotland (fifth) and England (sixth) cannot improve their rankings if they defeat Chile and Tonga, respectively.

However, England could move above Scotland if Steve Borthwick’s side defeat Chile and Scotland lose to Tonga.

If Gregor Towsend’s side fall to a defeat at the hands of Tonga, they could drop five places to 10th, depending on the results elsewhere during the World Cup. A Chile win over England could see the Red Rose drop to a new low of ninth.

After their historic win over Australia last weekend, Fiji are not in action this week.

However, they could still climb the rankings to equal their best position of seventh if results go their way.

A Wales-Australia draw will see Fiji climb one place ahead of Wales. Fiji could even jump as high as fifth if England and Scotland both lose this weekend and Wales and Australia draw.

Eddie Jones’ Wallabies could slip to a record low of 10th if they lose their Pool C clash with Wales and Argentina defeat Samoa in Pool D.

If Australia claim a second win in 2023, the Wallabies could climb as high as fifth in the event that England and Scotland both suffer shock defeats.

Outside the Top 10

Defeat for Samoa will see them drop two places to 13th if Italy and Georgia beat the lower-ranked Uruguay and Portugal, respectively.

A win over Australia will see Samoa rise to ninth, climbing above both Argentina and the loser of the Wales-Australia match – Manu Samoa have not been ranked as high as ninth since August 2015.

Portugal will become the higher-ranked of the two nations for the first time since March 2006 if they beat Georgia in Toulouse on Saturday.

Georgia have not lost to Os Lobos in 18 years, last tasting defeat to Rugby Europe Championship rivals in February 2005.

However, if Portugal do record their first-ever Rugby World Cup, they could rise to a record 13th place in the world rankings, depending on the margin of victory and the results of other matches.

Georgia will fall below Japan if they are held to a draw to Portugal – two if Tonga shock Scotland. The Lelos can only improve on 13th place in victory if Italy fail to beat Uruguay or Samoa are beaten by Argentina. If both lose, then Georgia will climb to 11th, the record-equalling position they were in when the tournament kicked off.

Top 20 movement

After a valiant effort against France in their first match of the tournament, Uruguay could equal their highest-ever ranking of 14th if they defeat Italy by more than 15 points.

Defeat for Italy will see them fall between two and four places, depending on the margin and results of the teams around them.

Defeating Scotland will see Tonga climb above at least Japan in the rankings with any other movements depending on the other results.

Meanwhile, Namibia will return to the top 20 if they beat France. They have not been ranked that high since 2017.

Finally, Chile will also enter the top 20 for the first time if they can upset England and claim a first Rugby World Cup win, and Namibia fall to Les Bleus.

World Rugby Rankings as of 18 September

1 Ireland 91.82
2 South Africa 91.67
3 France 90.59
4 New Zealand 87.69
5 Scotland 83.43
6 England 83.24
7 Wales 80.66
8 Fiji 80.66
9 Australia 79.00
10 Argentina 77.59
11 Samoa 76.19
12 Italy 75.63
13 Georgia 74.32
14 Japan 73.27
15 Tonga 70.29
16 Portugal 68.61
17 Uruguay 66.63
18 USA 66.22
19 Romania 64.56
20 Spain 64.05
21 Namibia 61.61
22 Chile 60.49

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