England, Wales and France eye top four
March 16, 2012
Wales will hope Sam Warburton is holding aloft the Six Nations trophy on Saturday © Getty Images
England, Wales and France will all be aiming to secure their spot in the top four of the International Rugby Board's rankings in what promises to be a memorable weekend of rugby.
England currently complete the top four with the southern hemisphere triumvirate of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa after beating France 24-22 last weekend. However, even victory over Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday may not be enough to retain that position.
The only way England will stay fourth is if Wales beat France at the Millennium Stadium with a winning margin of 15 points or less, a scenario which could see the two rivals separated by just seven hundredths of a rating point.
A more convincing Welsh victory at the Millennium Stadium would not only clinch the Grand Slam but lift them above England, regardless of the margin of victory at Twickenham, to equal their highest ever ranking.
If Wales do climb to fourth, a position they occupied before France ended their 2011 World Cup dreams, then they could do so by as little as five hundredths from England, setting the scene for an interesting month of tour matches involving all the Tier 1 nations in June.
France will return to fourth with any victory and could actually climb three places this weekend if they beat Wales by more than 15 points, assuming the place they began the Six Nations in before the draw with Ireland and loss to England saw them fall to sixth. Les Bleus cannot slip from sixth place even with a heavy loss, as England would fall below them into seventh if they suffer a second loss at Twickenham in the 2012 Championship with Ireland climbing to fifth.
It is not all good news for Ireland, though, as a loss would see them swap places again with Argentina to lie eighth, equalling their lowest ranking. There is no danger of slipping further as even an emphatic loss would still leave them more than three rating points above Tonga in ninth.
Wales, like England, could also end the weekend ranked seventh depending on the margin of defeats for them and their neighbours, a scenario which would rub further salt into their disappointment at missing out on the Grand Slam.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.