Paul O’Connell and Donncha O’Callaghan will gain a share of the RBS 6 Nations record for the most number of games together in the second row when they make their 19th tournament appearance together in Cardiff.
That will allow Ireland’s Paul O’Connell and Donncha O’Callaghan to join the Scottish duo of Scott Murray and Stuart Grimes and the Italian pairing of Santiago Dellape and Marco Bortolami in the RBS 6 Nations record books.
There is every likelihood that the Munster duo will surpass that 19-match mark in the final game of the 2011 Championship against England at the Aviva Stadium next week.
The great Willie John McBride packed down with Mick Molloy in a record 23 Championship matches for Ireland – a total matched by the Wales lock pairing of Allan Martin and Geoff Wheel.
England may be the only unbeaten side remaining in this year’s Championship ahead of the penultimate matches, but if they surrender that record with defeat to Scotland on Saturday then any one of three sides could replace them in fourth spot in the IRB World Rankings.
Victory over France a fortnight ago saw England replace them as the leading northern Hemisphere nation in the rankings, but a loss to the ‘Auld Enemy’ could see them usurped by France, Ireland or Wales depending on the results in Rome and Cardiff.
An England loss will not only end their dreams of a first Grand Slam since 2003, but will also see Martin Johnson’s men slide two places to sixth in the event that France continue their perfect Six Nations record against Italy and Ireland make it three wins in-a-row against Wales in Cardiff.
France will be hoping that if Ireland do win at the Millennium Stadium they only do so by a small margin, because a victory by more than 15 points will see Ireland usurp France, even if les Bleus were to run riot against Italy.
Welsh chances of equalling their highest ever position in the IRB World Rankings – held briefly during the 2009 Six Nations – is for them to beat Ireland by more than 15 points and England and France to both lose at home by the same margin.
If these upsets were to reign on the penultimate weekend then Wales would climb into fourth, albeit only by mere thousandths from England with both nations holding 80.98 rating points, nearly five-and-a-half points behind World champions South Africa in third spot.
This scenario would also make for an interesting finale to the northern Hemisphere’s premier international competition with Wales in fourth and Scotland in eighth separated by just 1.02 rating points.
Wales have only managed one victory over Ireland in Cardiff since 1983 and if they improve that statistic with a narrow win then they could still remain seventh, unless France were to lose by more than 15 points in Rome to drop below the Welsh.
IRB WORLD RANKINGS:
Last week’s positions in brackets –
1(1) NEW ZEALAND 93.19 rating points
2(2) AUSTRALIA 87.45
3(3) SOUTH AFRICA 86.44
4(4) ENGLAND 83.98
5(5) FRANCE 82.87
6(6) IRELAND 81.95
7(7) WALES 79.57
8(8) ARGENTINA 78.97
9(9) SCOTLAND 76.96
10(10) FIJI 74.05