Scotland have jumped up to seventh place in the World Rugby Rankings while Italy are up one spot to 12th after wins over the Test weekend.
This is Scotland’s highest position since September 2011, while Italy’s victory against South Africa made it another Saturday of surprises.
Following in the footsteps of Ireland and Germany, both shock winners on the opening two weekends, Italy took it upon themselves to rewrite history with a 20-18 win over South Africa in Florence while Scotland and Spain also managed to beat higher-ranked opposition on home soil.
Ignoring the nine-place differential in the World Rugby Rankings between themselves and the touring South Africans, Italy produced a dominant performance to beat the Springboks at the 13th time of asking, tries from Dries van Schalkwyk and Giovanbattista Venditti securing the Azzurri their first win at home for two years.
Italy gain two full rating points which would have been enough to lift them up one place to 12th in the rankings had Georgia not beaten Samoa 20-16 in Tbilisi. One-hundredth of a rating point is all that now separates Conor O’Shea’s men from the Lelos.
Having been edged out by Australia the previous weekend, Scotland managed to come out on the right side of a tight scoreline against Argentina, Greig Laidlaw’s penalty with the last kick of the game earning them a 19-16 win at Murrayfield.
Scotland move on to 80.57 points which puts them seventh ahead of France and Argentina, although less than a point covers the three nations. Crucially, ninth-placed Argentina only have one game left – against England at Twickenham – to move back into the world’s top eight and give themselves the chance of a more favourable seeding when the pools for Rugby World Cup 2019 are drawn in May.
At the top of the rankings, New Zealand shrugged off a high penalty count and the loss of two men to the sin-bin to beat Ireland 21-9 and gain revenge for their defeat to the same opposition a fortnight ago in Chicago.
Having picked up one-fifth of a rating point the All Blacks are now on 94.78 points with England unchanged in second, on 89.84 points, after their 58-15 win over Fiji at Twickenham.
Grand Slam-seeking Australia cemented third place with a tense 25-23 win against France in Paris. It was their third win on tour so far following earlier victories against Wales and Scotland.
South Africa’s run of defeats sees them drop a place to fifth, with Ireland moving above them into fourth despite their defeat. Wales, who stay sixth, owed their 33-30 victory over Japan to a last-gasp drop goal from replacement fly-half Sam Davies.
Narrow wins for Georgia (20-16 v Samoa), Tonga (20-17 v USA) and Romania (21-16 v Canada) means there is no change in the position of the tier two nations ranked from 11th to 18th.
Russia, however, are back in the world’s top 20 after successfully defending their Cup of Nations title in Hong Kong with a 27-0 win against their hosts. Winger Denis Simplikevich bagged a brace of tries inside the final 10 minutes to give the scoreline a one-sided look. Russia move up two places to 19th, overtaking Namibia and Uruguay in the process.
Previous position in rankings
1(1) New Zealand 94.78
2(2) England 89.84
3(3) Australia 88.14
4(5) Irelanad 83.46
5(4) South Africa 82.49
6(6) Wales 81.77
7(9) Scotland 80.57
8(7) France 80.13
9(8) Argentina 79.91
10(10) Fiji 75.49
11(11) Japan 75.20
12(12) Georgia 74.24
13(13) Italy 74.23
14(14) Samoa 70.91
15(15) Tonga 70.25
16(16) Romania 69.36
17(17) USA 64.66
18(18) Canada 64.29
19(21) Russia 63.25
20(19) Namibia 62.78
With thanks to World Rugby