Taking Japan for starters, the Brave Blossoms continued their impressive pre-Rugby World Cup 2019 form by dispatching the USA 34-20 in Suva to claim the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup and also earn enough rating points to leapfrog Fiji, who ended the tournament with a 10-3 win against Samoa, and Argentina in the rankings.
With an overall rating of 77.21 points, Jamie Joseph’s side now find themselves ranked ninth, equalling their previous best position which was last held in February 2016, five months after they’d shocked the rugby world with their stunning RWC 2015 victory over the Springboks in Brighton.
As for Australia, a record 47-26 win over New Zealand in the final round of The Rugby Championship on Saturday has marked them down as credible challengers for the Webb Ellis Cup.
Winger Reece Hodge scored two of Australia’s six tries to help them to achieve their highest points tally in 165 tests against the All Blacks. However, they were unable to climb the rankings as the two-and-a-half points gained in victory still leaves them in sixth place behind South Africa.
New Zealand’s defeat in the first Bledisloe Cup test match to be played in Perth opened the door for Wales to become the world’s number one ranked team, a status that the All Blacks had enjoyed for the best part of a decade.
Warren Gatland’s team took to the field at Twickenham the following day knowing that a draw or victory would see them create history, but England were the more composed of the two teams and tries for Billy Vunipola, Joe Cokanasiga and Luke Cowan-Dickie plus 15 points from the boot of George Ford and an Elliot Daly drop goal saw them avenge their defeat to Wales in Cardiff in this year’s Six Nations.
George North and Wyn Jones added to Gareth Davies’ brilliant solo effort in a strong second-half performance but it was not enough for Wales to prevent their 14-match winning run coming to an end.
Even though South Africa picked up just over half a rating point for their Rugby Championship title-clinching 46-13 victory against Argentina in Salta, the 1.07 points awarded to England was enough for them to trade places with the Springboks and move up to fourth. Wales stay in second place but are just two-tenths of a point ahead of Ireland, who beat Italy 29-10 in Dublin on Saturday.
Despite the defeat, Italy move up to 13th in the rankings as the USA’s failure to win a first Pacific Nations Cup title cost them six-tenths of a point.
Tonga’s 33-23 win over Canada in Lautoka on Friday night did not affect the rankings with the teams remaining in 15th and 21st place respectively.