England remain on course to achieve the first back-to-back Grand Slam of the Six Nations era as the gap between themselves and New Zealand continues to narrow at the top of the World Rugby Rankings.
Only 3.76 rating points now separate them from the All Blacks following their dramatic 21-16 win over Wales at the Principality Stadium, which also extended their winning run to 16 matches.
Eddie Jones’ side picked up 0.56 of a point to move on to 91.02 points thanks to Elliot Daly’s breathtaking match-winner in the Cardiff cauldron, while Wales lose an identical amount under the points exchange system adopted by the rankings, but hang on to fifth place.
With Ireland gaining 0.22 of a rating point as reward for their record-breaking 63-10 win over Italy in Rome, CJ Stander and replacement Craig Gilroy both bagging hat-tricks, Wales are now 1.31 points behind their Celtic cousins, who occupy the fourth and last place reserved in band one for the Rugby World Cup 2019 pool draw.
Italy slip one place to 14th, with Tonga the beneficiaries.
CJ Stander only the 3rd fwd in the 134yr history of the Championship to score a hat-trick - Michel Crauste in '62 & Jehoida Hodges in 1903— Stuart Farmer (@Stu_Farmer) February 12, 2017
Meanwhile, the battle to stay within the second band of seeds reserved for teams ranked fifth to eighth is really focusing the minds of France and Scotland, who came together in another fine advert for test rugby at the Stade de France on Sunday.
The boot of Camille Lopez and a wonderful team try finished off by Gael Fickou saw Les Bleus not only preserve their unbeaten home record in the Six Nations against Scotland but also trade places with Vern Cotter’s side in the rankings.
France gained 0.86 of a point courtesy of their 22-16 win to move up one place to seventh while Scotland drop to eighth with the gap between themselves and Argentina now down to a fraction under one point.
The pool draw for RWC 2019 takes place in Kyoto, Japan, on 10 May.
The countdown to #RWC2019 begins here!
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