Spain Climb to New High in IRB World Rankings

Spain have climbed into the top 20 of the IRB World Rankings for the first time after handing defending champions Georgia their first defeat of the European Nations Cup 2012, the home side winning 25-18 in Madrid on Saturday.

The victory was in stark contrast to Georgia’s emphatic 60-0 win a year earlier, the Lelos ultimately coming up short as they tried to fight back from a 25-8 defeat after César Sempere crossed for his second try of the match within six minutes of the restart.

Spain’s victory lifts them above Uruguay, Namibia and Russia into 19th position, two places better than their previous high which they occupied between August 2007 and March 2009. The defeat also sees Georgia fall one to 15th, swapping places with Japan.

Namibia are the biggest fallers of the last seven days, slipping two places to 21st as a consequence of the Spanish victory and Russia’s tight 33-32 win over Portugal in Lisbon. A Russian victory was guaranteed to lift them above Namibia, but Spain’s upset win means they remain 20th.

The narrow loss on home soil has not affected Portugal’s ranking of 24th, although a second defeat in as many weeks – they lost 15-7 to Romania last weekend – means they have slipped further away from Chile above them and closer to Belgium below.

The weekend’s other scheduled Division 1A encounter between Romania and Ukraine was postponed on Friday due to the weather, a fate which also claimed the RBS Six Nations match involving France and Ireland at the Stade de France just before kick-off.

England and Wales both improved their ratings with victories over Italy and Scotland respectively, but not enough to improve their positions of fifth and sixth, the English in fact increasing their cushion slightly by virtue of winning 19-15 on the road in Rome.

Stuart Lancaster’s men have now closed the deficit to South Africa in fourth to 1.53 points, inching closer to a place in what will be the top band of seeds for the Rugby World Cup 2015 Pool Allocation Draw in December.

Leigh Halfpenny was the star of Wales’ 27-13 win over Scotland with two tries in his 22-point haul, but his one missed kick meant that they failed to maximise their potential gain in the rankings, winning by less than 15 points.

Scotland and Italy remain 11th and 12th after suffering their second defeats of the Championship, the Scots grateful that Tobias Botes squandered two kickable penalties that could have given Italy a first ever win over England and condemned Scotland to their lowest ever spot in the IRB World Rankings.

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