November 8, 2013 (ISN) – Whatever happens in this weekend’s November internationals across Europe there are two certainties: New Zealand will remain number one in the IRB World Rankings and South Africa will stay at number two.
The All Blacks could extend their cushion over the Springboks to as much as 7.45 rating points if they beat France by more than 15 points at the Stade de France, and if the South Africans lose by the same margin to Wales at the Millennium Stadium.
By contrast, if France can avenge their Rugby World Cup 2011 final loss and claim another All Blacks scalp, and the Springboks prevail in Cardiff, then the difference between the two sides could shrink to as little as 1.45 points as New Zealand close in on their fourth anniversary atop the rankings.
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The exact order of the teams below the top two is harder to predict with a number of permutations possible with Wales, France and Ireland all hoping to make gains by beating higher-ranked opponents.
England cannot improve their rating with victory over Argentina at Twickenham, a consequence of being at home against a side ranked seven places and more than 10 rating points below them.
Australia can only gain just over half a rating point by beating 12th-ranked Italy in Turin, a nation that came within a last minute missed penalty of securing a draw against the Wallabies 12 months ago.
England and Australia, though, could both surrender their positions in the top four if they taste defeats in their second November internationals of 2013, with Wales and France in line to leapfrog them if they won victories over the top two nations.
Winning margins would come into the equation for this to happen and things could get worse for the Wallabies as it is possible for them to slump to a new low of seventh, depending on the outcomes of their match in Italy and those in Paris, Cardiff and Dublin.
Already ranked at their highest ever position of seventh in the world, Samoa could climb to fifth if they beat Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, and Wales and France lose at home to South Africa and world champions New Zealand.
The Islanders are ranked above Ireland after beating Wales, Scotland and Italy in the last 12 months, but will surrender that mantle if they lose against Ireland in their first match under new coach Joe Schmidt.
Scotland will make only a minimal rating point gain with victory over Japan at Murrayfield, even could slip down despite victory if Argentina gained more points for beating England at Twickenham.
The top 17 nations in the IRB World Rankings are all in action this weekend with Canada also travelling to Tbilisi to face Georgia, Romania hosting Tonga in Bucharest and Fiji facing Portugal in Lisbon.
Portugal are the lowest-ranked of those at 22nd but could return to the top 20 if they can cause an upset by beating Fiji, and if their neighbours Spain suffer defeat against Chile in the first of a two-Test tour to South America.
There is also plenty of scope for change throughout the rankings with a one-off match between Senegal and Ivory Coast in France, the opening match of the Tri Nations Rugby Series in Namibia and six European Nations Cup matches across the weekend.
The IRB World Rankings update every Monday at 12:00 (GMT).