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Ireland could take top spot

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How there could be a new No. 1 ranked nation in the world after this weekend

Wales ended the All Blacks’ 10-year tenure as the world’s No. 1 ranked side with a 13-6 victory against England in Cardiff over the weekend, but their spell as the world’s top side could be over by Saturday.

England will shift their attention to Ireland this weekend as they continue their World Cup preparations, and the result of that match will have ramifications as to how the world rankings stand by next week.

Should Eddie Jones’ side concede a second straight defeat in three days’ time at Twickenham, Ireland will climb from third to first on the world rankings for the first time in their history.

Such a result would bump Wales back down to second-place, while New Zealand would equal their lowest-ever ranking of third – a ranking they have been lowered to since 2003, when the World Rugby ranking system was first introduced.

An English victory, however, would see the top three sides retain their current positions, while the Brits would reclaim fourth spot ahead of a resurgent South Africa.

Neither the All Blacks or Wales have fixtures this weekend to solidify their standings in the world rankings.

Warren Gatland’s men next play on August 31 when they host Ireland in what could be a battle between the top two ranked sides on the planet, while Steve Hansen’s team will play Tonga in Hamilton on September 7 in their final pre-World Cup fixture.

Hansen said on Sunday that he wasn’t concerned about where the All Blacks stood in the world rankings, while Jones used Wales’ newfound status to pile pressure on the Six Nations champions.

“They’re favourites for the World Cup now. When you go to No 1, you’re favourites for the World Cup,” he said.

Gatland has since refuted those sentiments.

“It’s just a number, isn’t it,” the outgoing New Zealand-born Welsh coach said.

“It is a nice accolade to have, but it is all about the next few months and backing that up by performing well in the World Cup, and we’ve a couple of games against Ireland to go as well.

“It’s nice for a day, but we won’t be shouting from the rooftops about it. We have got to keep things in perspective.

“Lots of journalists will be out there saying ‘this is a joke’ — probably Kiwi journalists more than anything! It’s just a number.”

World Rugby Rankings (Top 20):

1. Wales 89.43
2. New Zealand 89.40
3. Ireland 88.69
4. South Africa 86.83
5. England 86.79
6. Australia 84.05
7. France 80.58
8. Scotland 79.01
9. Japan 77.21
10. Fiji 76.98
11. Argentina 76.29
12. Georgia 74.42
13. Italy 72.04
14. USA 71.93
15. Tonga 71.49
16. Samoa 69.08
17. Spain 68.15
18. Romania 66.69
19. Uruguay 65.18
20. Russia 64.81

The Season – Series Three:

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How there could be a new No. 1 ranked nation in the world after this weekend