World Rugby Women's Rankings preview: 20-21 October, 2023

World Rugby Women's Rankings preview: 20-21 October, 2023

World Rugby has published the permutations for the opening round of matches in WXV 1 in New Zealand and the second round of WXV 2 in South Africa and WXV 3 in Dubai.

World Rugby has published the ranking permutations for the opening round of matches in the inaugural WXV 1 tournament and the second round of both WXV 2 and WXV 3 this weekend. 

Permutation highlights:

  • World champions New Zealand can reclaim the number one ranking if they beat France and England fail to beat lower-ranked Australia. They have not sat top since November 2020.
  • The Black Ferns cannot assume top spot if England beat Australia, despite the fact that the Red Roses are unable to improve their rating with victory over the Wallaroos due to the 15.58 points difference between the two teams.
  • All that New Zealand can do in this case is reduce the deficit to England by more than half, from 0.69 rating points to 0.27 points if they beat France by more than 15 points.
  • New Zealand can also top the rankings in defeat, although only if their defeat is by less than 15 points and Australia win by a greater margin.
  • It is also possible for France to top the rankings for the first time since they were introduced in February 2016. However, to achieve this, Les Bleues must beat New Zealand by more than 15 points and England lose by the same margin.
  • A smaller margin of defeat for England would still be enough for France to climb above New Zealand into second – a position they have not occupied since July 2016.
  • Australia will climb to a new high of fourth if they beat England by more than 15 points and Canada lose by the same margin to Wales. This would be the first time since July 2016 that a team other than Canada, England, France and New Zealand have been ranked in the top four.
  • However, defeat for Australia in the WXV 1 opening match puts them at risk of losing fifth place to Wales if they can upset Canada.
  • Unlike the Wallaroos, though, Wales cannot break into the top four this weekend as even a win by more than 15 points would still leave them 1.57 rating points behind Canada.
  • Wales do have some comfort in the fact that they cannot fall from sixth place even if they suffer a heavy loss against Canada in their opening match.
  • In WXV 2, Japan cannot improve their rating with victory over Samoa as a result of the 10.42 points difference between the two sides.
  • The Sakura 15s could still climb from 11th place if they win and Ireland fail to beat Colombia, the lowest-ranked team in the three levels of WXV 2023. This would see Japan reclaim the 10th place they surrendered to Ireland after last weekend’s loss to Italy.
  • Hosts South Africa will regain the 12th place they lost if they avoid defeat against Italy and Spain fail to beat the lower-ranked Fiji in WXV 3.
  • The tournament hosts can go no higher this weekend, even if they win by more than 15 points and Japan lose by the same margin to the lower-ranked Samoa.
  • Scotland will climb above Italy into eighth place if they beat USA and Italy lose to South Africa.
  • The Scots must win by more than 15 points to become the higher-ranked of the two nations with a new high of seventh possible if Italy also fail to beat the Springbok Women.
  • Such a margin of defeat could see the Women’s Eagles drop two places to a new low of ninth.
  • Samoa’s reward for a first victory over Japan – in their first meeting since July 2001 – will be a one-place climb to 14th, taking them above Russia.
  • In WXV 3, neither Ireland nor Kazakhstan can improve their rating this weekend with victory over lower-ranked opponents Colombia or Kenya. Ireland go into the match 25.49 rating points and 15 places higher than Colombia in the rankings, while Kazakhstan are closer in position (18th to 23rd) but 10.13 points better off than Kenya.
  • However, it is possible for Ireland to still climb the rankings if they win and Scotland lose to USA by more than 15 points in WXV 2, a scenario that would see the Irish take over ninth place from their Celtic rivals.
  • A draw for Fiji against the higher-ranked Spain will see them climb above Kazakhstan into 18th, even if the Asian side beat Kenya in their second match in the tournament in Dubai.
  • Colombia will swap places with Trinidad and Tobago above them if they hold Ireland to a draw, climbing to a new high of 24th.
  • Fiji could climb two places to 17th if they beat Spain and Kazakhstan lose to Kenya.
  • A win for Kenya would see them climb one place to a new high of 22nd with Kazakhstan dropping to 20th.


  • Lauren Jenner (New Zealand) takes charge of England v Australia for the first time, having been an assistant referee for their Rugby World Cup 2021 quarter-final last year. England are yet to lose with Jenner in the middle, their most recent win coming last month against Canada. Australia have a won one, lost one record with Jenner as referee.
  • Sara Cox (England) will again become the most-capped female referee in test history in her own right by taking charge of Canada v Wales in WXV 1. She currently shares the record with South Africa's Aimee Barrett-Theron. Cox has already refereed Canada twice this year in the World Rugby Pacific Four Series, where they lost to New Zealand and beat Australia. Wales are yet to win with the English referee in the middle.
  • Hollie Davidson (Scotland) returns to New Zealand for the first time since she took charge of the Black Ferns' Rugby World Cup 2021 final victory over England last November. New Zealand v France will be Davidson's first test match in the middle since she refereed Les Bleues' 53-3 defeat of Ireland in the TikTok Women's Six Nations in April. Since then, the Scottish official became the first female to referee at the men's World Rugby U20 Championship. 
  • Clara Munarini (Italy) will referee USA v Scotland for the first time in WXV 2 in South Africa. She has already taken charge of the Women's Eagles twice this year, in victory against Spain in March and defeat to Wales last month. Scotland's last victory with Munarini in the middle was an important one in September 2021 as it booked their place in the RWC 2021 Final Qualification Tournament.
  • Aurélie Groizeleau (France) is the most experienced referee involved in WXV 2 and takes charge of Italy v South Africa for the second time, having been in the middle for the Azzurre's 35-10 victory over the Springbok Women in November 2018. It will be the fourth time this year that the Frenchwoman has refereed Italy.
  • Holly Wood (England) will referee Japan and Samoa for the first time, having only made her test debut last month with Scotland's 36-5 defeat of Spain in Edinburgh. Wood has returned to refereeing after giving birth earlier this year. 
  • Adèle Robert (Belgium) will referee Kazakhstan and Kenya for the first time in what will be her first match outside of Europe and the first to feature two non-European teams. 
  • Ella Goldsmith (Australia) takes charge of her fifth test since making her debut in the middle in May. All five of them will have featured Fiji, while this will be the first time she referees Spain.
  • Ano Kuwai (Japan) will make her test debut in the middle with Ireland v Colombia. The Rio 2016 Olympian played for Japan in both sevens and 15s, having been a discus thrower before discovering rugby.

The rankings preview can be read via the Match Notes page in the WXV section of the Media Zone.

World Rugby will also be producing individual match previews for all 27 matches across WXV 1, WXV 2 and WXV 3. These will be available in the same section as soon as possible after both teams are announced.

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