The six Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifying matches in Europe over the weekend have resulted in 33 positional changes in the latest IRB World Rankings with Malta the biggest climbers after beating the higher ranked Lithuania 34-17.
Malta made the most of home advantage for their European Nations Cup 2014 Division 2A encounter in Paola to win by a margin that lifts them seven places to a new high of 41st, just two places now behind Lithuania who drop four with defeat.
The victory lifts Malta to the top of Division 2A, ahead of Switzerland on point differential after they also upset a higher ranked team at home, beating Croatia 29-20 at the Stade de Colovray in Nyon.
Switzerland’s win has resulted in a three place elevation to 53rd with Bermuda, Papua New Guinea and Israel all slipping one as a result. Croatia’s first defeat of the new European Nations Cup campaign means they fall three places to 42nd.
Poland were the highest ranked of the 12 teams in action across Europe and by beating Germany 22-13 they have risen two places to 25th, their highest ever position since the IRB World Rankings were introduced in October 2003.
The Division 1B leaders have climbed above Korea and Portugal as a result of the win with Chile their next target to overhaul. Germany were the only team in action not to suffer a positional change, remaining 30th although now closer to Ukraine below than Zimbabwe above them.
Lots at stake in rankings
Another big climber was Andorra, the only team to win away from home in the European Nations Cup this weekend after they edged Serbia in a tight battle 26-23. Andorra climb six places to 61st, while Serbia drop five to 74th.
Latvia were also winners in Division 2B, overcoming Denmark 27-15 to earn a three-place rise to 72nd. They now sit only six places behind their visitors who fall five to 66th as a result of the defeat by a lower ranked side.
The victorious team with the smallest climb of the week is Norway, who climb one place to 92nd on the back of a tight 11-9 win over Bosnia & Herzegovina. Norway, though, are only 0.08 behind the two sides above them in Nigeria and Bosnia & Herzegovina, who slide three places, so further gains could follow in the weeks and months to come.
The European Nations Cup, which doubles as the region’s qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2015, continues in earnest again this weekend, which is set to be a very busy time with the traditional November Tests also kicking off across the continent.
The focus will inevitably be on the 12 directly qualified teams for RWC 2015 as they battle to improve their ranking before the Pool Allocation Draw in London on 3 December, but the teams battling to join them will also have their eyes on climbing the ladder.