Cape Town – France have moved above Australia and into sixth place in the World Rugby rankings – their highest position since June 2017 – after defeating England 24-17 at the Stade de France on Sunday.
According to the World Rugby website, for the first time since 1988, England were held scoreless at the interval in a Six Nations match and looked a pale shadow of the side that reached the Rugby World Cup 2019 final only a few months ago.
Led by the irrepressible Charles Ollivon, France dominated England from the off and led 24-0 in the 55th minute thanks to two tries from their openside flank and one from wing Vincent Rattez.
Jonny May’s brilliance saw England regain some pride as the wing raced home for two spectacular tries and Eddie Jones men left with the consolation of a losing bonus point when Owen Farrell slotted a penalty from in front of the posts in the last act of the game.
France’s victory at a rain-swept Stade de France was worth a fraction under one-and-a-half rating points and boosts their overall total to 82.37 points. England, meanwhile, stay in third place behind world champions South Africa and New Zealand.
The opening match of the Six Nations, a 42-0 win for Wales over Italy, did not have any impact on the rankings due to the large points differential between the teams, but it did get Wayne Pivac’s competitive debut as head coach off to a flying start.
It was the first time Wales had held a team scoreless in the Six Nations since 1974, and it proved a comfortable introduction for the former Scarlets coach.
RWC 2019 leading try-scorer Josh Adams continued his prolific form from Japan with a hat-trick of tries while Nick Tompkins capped a fine debut off the bench with a try of his own. The centre looked to have set up George North for a score as well, but the TMO ruled against it because of a knock-on earlier on in the move.
North was not to be denied in the 77th minute, though, when he used all his strength – and a little help from captain Alun Wyn Jones – to muscle his way over.
Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny kicked two conversions apiece and Biggar also landed three penalties – as well as providing a moment of magic in the first half with a through the legs try-scoring pass to Adams.
Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, Stuart Hogg inexplicably dropped the ball over the line as Scotland fell to a 19-12 defeat to Ireland in an intense match at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
It was not the captaincy debut that the normally mercurial Hogg would have hoped for but overall his side put in a much-improved performance from the one that saw them beaten 27-3 by Ireland at RWC 2019.
Johnny Sexton scored the only try of the game and kicked the remainder of their points to finish with 19 points – his highest individual tally in the Six Nations.
Scotland’s wastefulness when in promising attacking positions saw them go try-less with Adam Hastings’ boot supplying all of their points.
Ireland gained 0.17 of a point but that was not enough for them to catch Wales in fourth place in the rankings. Scotland stay in ninth, just outside to top two bands of seeds for the Rugby World Cup 2023 draw in November.
Meanwhile, in the Rugby Europe Championship 2020, two-time defending champions Georgia overcame a slow start to beat Romania 41-13. The bonus-point victory lifts them above Tonga and up to 13th place in the rankings.
The Lelos, who only held an 8-6 advantage at half-time, scored six tries including a second-half brace for veteran centre Davit Kacharava, while all of Romania’s points came from centre Florin Vlaicu.
Romania’s record points scorer converted his own try in the 49th minute as the Oaks temporarily drew level with their hosts at 13-13, in addition to kicking two first half penalties, and is now closing in on 1 000 points in test rugby.
Despite the defeat, Romania’s cushion over their nearest rivals in the rankings, Russia, increased to more than four points after the Bears were beaten by rampant Spain.
After conceding an early try, scored and converted by Russia’s flyhalf Ramil Gaisin, Spain took control of the first half and led 14-7 at the break thanks to tries from flank Victor Sanchez and jet-heeled wing Jordi Jorba, which Brad Linklater turned into seven-pointers.
Hooker Vicente del Hoyo put further daylight between the teams when he scored in the 45th minute. After nearly half-an-hour without a point being scored, Gaisin then gave Russia hope with his second try but late scores from Linklater and replacement Fred Quercy secured Spain a record-equalling eighth consecutive Test victory.
Spain picked up 1.19 points for the victory as they move ever closer to achieving an historic high of 15th place in the rankings. Russia manage to hang on to their position in the world’s top 20.
Portugal marked their return to the Rugby Europe Championship after a four-year absence with a hard-fought 23-17 win at home to Belgium, a result that could go a long way towards securing their place at this level for another year.
Tries from fullback Manuel Pinto and winger Jose Vareta, both converted by Dany Atunnes, put the Portuguese in command at 14-0 but the Black Devils fought back strongly after the break to score two tries through their forwards. Approaching the hour-mark, there was nothing to separate the sides at 17-17, but two late penalties from Atunnes saw Os Lobos chalk up their fourth home win in a row against Belgium.
Patrice Lagisquet’s team move above Canada and Namibia into 22nd place in the rankings, while Belgium remain in 27th.
Top 20 in the latest World Rugby rankings:
1. South Africa 94.19
2. New Zealand 92.11
3. England 87.32
4. Wales 85.02
5. Ireland 84.62
6. France 82.37
7. Australia 81.90
8. Japan 79.28
9. Scotland 79.06
10. Argentina 78.31
11. Fiji 76.21
12. Italy 72.04
13. Georgia 71.63
14. Tonga 71.44
15. Samoa 70.72
16. Spain 69.35
17. USA 68.10
18. Uruguay 67.41
19. Romania 66.33
20. Russia 61.90
24. Namibia 61.01
32. Kenya 52.55
35. Zimbabwe 50.69
Published at Tue, 04 Feb 2020 06:13:48 +0000