While Ireland celebrated their third Grand Slam, Scotland were the only movers in the top 10 of the World Rugby Rankings following the final round of the NatWest Six Nations Championship.
As he has done so many times before, Greig Laidlaw stepped up to kick the last-gasp penalty that spared the Scots from defeat at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Gregor Townsend’s side emerging with the tensest of 29-27 victories.
The three-hundredth of a point on offer for their first away win of the season took Scotland above South Africa and into fifth in the World Rugby Rankings, the position they were at the start of the Championship. Italy are also unchanged over the duration of the competition, in 12th place, but with 71.10 points instead of 71.25.
Having wrapped up the Grand Slam with a famous St. Patrick’s Day victory over England at Twickenham, second place belongs to Ireland until at least the summer. As well as moving above England en route to the title, the five straight wins have boosted Ireland’s score to 89.11 leaving them 4.88 points adrift of the world’s number one team, New Zealand.
Had it not been for Elliot Daly’s second try and a late effort from Jonny May, the 24-15 scoreline against England would have been far worse. A loss by 16 points or more would have taken the English to within 11-hundredths of a point of Australia in fourth. As things stand now, that cushion is still only a fraction under three-quarters of a point.
In finishing fifth in the Six Nations table, their worst performance in just over two decades, England have slipped from second to third in the rankings and have lost 4.64 points since the competition began on February 3.
Wales end the Six Nations campaign where they started it, in seventh place but with 83.41 points compared to 82.08, while France, who they beat 14-13 at the Principality Stadium on Saturday, rose one place to eighth, mainly thanks to their win over England in round four.
WORLD RUGBY RANKINGS (as of Monday, March 19):
Last week’s positions in brackets –
1(1) New Zealand 93.99 rating points
2(2) IRELAND 89.11
3(3) England 86.23
4(4) Australia 85.49
5(6) Scotland 83.83
6(5) South Africa 83.81
7(7) Wales 83.41
8(8) France 79.10
9(9) Argentina 78.22
10(10) Fiji 77.93
11(11) Japan 75.66
12(12) Georgia 73.96
13(13) Tonga 71.87
14(14) Italy 71.10
15(15) USA 69.23