Rugby World Cup power rankings: A new nation at number one?

How has the third weekend of fixtures affected our rankings?

Harry Latham-Coyle
Monday 25 September 2023 13:13 BST
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The Rugby World Cup is firmly in the swing of things with the quarter-finals drawing ever nearer.

Wales were the first team to book their place in the last eight, producing an outstanding performance to leave Australia in disarray.

In Paris, meanwhile, Ireland and South Africa thrilled in a heavyweight clash of contenders that could yet serve as a preview of this year’s final.

And then there’s Antoine Dupont’s injury, which threatens to derail home hopes. How has all of the action in France affected our power rankings?

Here, The Independent assesses how every nation stacks up as the World Cup rolls on. Get all the latest rugby betting sites offers here and sign up to bet365 using The Independent’s unique bonus code by clicking here.

Rugby World Cup power rankings

1. Ireland (⬆️1)

There’s a new nation at number one, with Ireland’s colossal effort against South Africa bumping them up to the top of our rankings. There remains little to choose between the top four, but Andy Farrell’s side just keep on answering every question posed to them. Now, it is a matter of handling a pressure game against Scotland – but Ireland have shown few signs of stress thus far.

2. France (⬇️1)

Dropping down a spot are France, primarily due to Antoine Dupont’s injury. While the noises from inside camp regarding a potential return are positive, the loss of their captain and star is a major blow to the hosts, puncturing a buoyant nation somewhat. The prospect of taking on South Africa in the last eight without him will worry Fabien Galthie.

3. South Africa (↔️)

The Springboks very nearly remained at number two despite defeat in Paris, but Manie Libbok’s off night from the tee and ongoing concerns over their hooker depth feel like reasons to keep them third. To lose despite a dominant defensive performance will have disappointed Jacques Nienaber, though the gameplan clarity and belief in the South Africa squad doesn’t appear to have been at all dented.

4. New Zealand (↔️)

The All Blacks continue to lurk as a strangely quiet contender, the nature of their pool schedule meaning they have plenty of time to retool after that opening night defeat. Presuming they are at full strength against Italy, Ian Foster will be keen to see his scrum tighten things up and a fit-again Jordie Barrett to slot back comfortably into midfield.

5. Scotland (↔️)

Job done for Scotland against Tonga, a bonus point win needed and achieved with only Jamie Ritchie’s head injury to really worry Gregor Townsend. A few kinks, particularly defensively, to be worked out before taking on Ireland but don’t rule the Scots out.

6. England (↔️)

Everything’s coming up roses for England, all but assured of a last-eight place and showing they can win in different ways. Barring an incident or injury in training, 33 players will be available for the first time at this World Cup for the meeting with Samoa, when Steve Borthwick would be expected to give his first-choice team an opportunity to tune up for the quarters.

7. Wales (⬆️1)

Ever so impressive from Wales in Lyon, totally dominant in the final 60 minutes to leave Australia in tatters. Gareth Anscombe’s performance off the bench shows there might be more depth than first appears in this Welsh squad, which seems to be getting better and better.

8. Fiji (⬇️1)

One more bonus point win will do for Fiji, with games against Georgia and Portugal to come. You feel more certain about this crop avoiding consecutive slip-ups than previous iterations of the Pacific Island side – this is a good team both within structure and outside of it.

9. Argentina (⬆️1)

A sloppy game in the wet between Argentina and Samoa, though the win should boost the confidence of Michael Cheika’s men after a flat first outing in France.

10. Australia (⬇️1)

Meek and miserable for Australia against Wales, wasting a few early opportunities and then never threatening again. Is the second Eddie Jones era already at an end?

11. Samoa (↔️)

Good but not good enough from Samoa in their second pool fixture, just not quite finding consistency against the Pumas on a soggy evening in Saint-Etienne. An intriguing couple of weeks for Seilala Mapusua’s side – their nip-and-tuck win over Japan in July suggests another tight game, before the Pacific Islanders will see if they can catch a rested England off guard.

12. Italy (↔️)

Uruguay gave Italy a first-half fright but credit must go to the Azzurri for figuring things out, reverting to a more direct gameplan and capitalising on a fatiguing opponent. A win over France or New Zealand would still be an almighty shock but Italy’s young squad don’t lack self-belief.

13. Japan (⬆️1)

It remains tough to know what to make of Japan, who will still hope to challenge Argentina for a last-eight place. The meeting with Samoa should be a good gauge of where they are at.

14. Georgia (⬇️1)

A draw against Portugal was better than a defeat for Georgia, who could not convert their first-half dominance into points, but still a disappointment. You’d expect Los Lelos to be better for the full 80 minutes against Fiji but it is tougher and tougher to see a route to victory.

15. Tonga (↔️)

Tonga’s attacking threat continues to be undermined by defensive disorganisation and ill-discipline, with Vaea Fifita’s shoulder on Finn Russell particularly ugly. South Africa up next – gulp...

16. Portugal (⬆️1)

Very nearly a famous day for Portugal against Georgia, left to rue what might have been as Nuno Sousa Guedes’ potential match-winning kick drifted off line. Patrice Lagisquet has got his team playing superbly, though, scrambling well defensively and showing off their talent with ball in hand as the game progressed. Raffaele Storti looks a potential star in the making.

17. Uruguay (⬇️1)

The six-day turnaround between the France and Italy games didn’t do Uruguay many favours, the South Americans fading badly after another bright first 40 minutes. Los Teros have shown more than enough to be considered strong favourites against Namibia, who played them close in a warm-up fixture.

18. Chile (↔️)

Chile produced a predictable performance of two parts against England, impressive for 15 minutes and rather out of the battle thereafter. There will be some disappointment that some funky attacking manoeuvres did not produce a single point but Pablo Lemoine was right to lament a lack of previous opportunities against tier-one nations post-match.

19. Namibia (↔️)

You can understand Allister Coetzee’s decision to rotate against France but it was a damaging day for Namibia, and captain Johan Deysel specifically – the centre’s World Cup is over after his sending off for the head-to-head collision with Dupont. Can they lift their level against Uruguay?

20. Romania (↔️)

The possible need to boost their points difference will probably see Scotland go flat out against Romania, which will worry a side that have been struggling defensively anyway.

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