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Power Rankings: Who leads the way before the Autumn Nations Series

Power Rankings: Who leads the way before the Autumn Nations Series

Power rankings Ireland France

The Autumn Nations Series kicks off in a matter of days with bragging rights between hemispheres on the line – and a chance to top our power rankings.

Over the next five weeks, the world’s best rugby players will go head-to-head across a series of brilliant encounters.

By the end of it, some reputations will have been enhanced, while some teams will be looking for answers.

As we prepare to kick things off, we have put together our power rankings of how the teams currently stand heading into the Autumn Nations Series.

These rankings will fluctuate as the games go on, with teams looking to move up by getting one over on opposition from the other side of the world.

Don’t agree? Then let us know on the Autumn Nations Series social channels!

1. Ireland

There were two main candidates for top spot but in the end we have to go with Ireland after their historic series win in New Zealand in July.

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While they were only second in the Guinness Six Nations, Andy Farrell’s team went and became the first team to win a series away to the All Blacks in the professional era, and in some style.

With matches against South Africa, Fiji and Australia, Johnny Sexton and his team will almost certainly need to go three from three to have a chance of retaining top spot throughout the Autumn Nations Series.

2. France

A record-equalling run of ten successive victories for France has included a biggest-ever win over the All Blacks and a Grand Slam. They then followed that up with a 2-0 win in Japan earlier this year, despite resting the vast majority of their starters.

They head into November with a few injury concerns, particularly at loosehead prop where top two Cyril Baille and Jean-Baptiste Gros are injured.

Still, Fabien Galthié’s side have been outstanding over the past couple of years, and will be desperate to extend that run in games against Australia, South Africa and Japan.

3. New Zealand

Is this too high for the All Blacks? Quite possibly, but they did bounce back from their series defeat in Ireland to win the Rugby Championship, and that is despite the fact that both their matches against South Africa were on the road.

Ian Foster’s team are certainly not the intimidating presence of old. This year alone they have lost at home to both Ireland and Argentina for the first time and suffered their second biggest defeat ever to the Springboks.

Still, they won the Rugby Championship and will head north with plenty of confidence for games against Wales, Scotland and England, as well as this weekend’s clash with Japan.

4. South Africa

Frans Steyn celebrates the final whistle for South Africa. Siya Kolisi

There are times when South Africa look simply unstoppable and their front five depth is unparalleled around the world.

And yet, Jacques Nienaber’s side also lost to Wales at home for the first time in July, were beaten by New Zealand at Ellis Park in a match that ended up costing them the Rugby Championship, and also split their clashes with Australia including a 25-17 defeat that was nowhere near as close as the final scoreline suggested.

So the Autumn Nations Series is the perfect opportunity for them to make a statement, not least because they face three of our current top five, Ireland, France and England, as well as a clash with Italy. Three wins from four would be an impressive return on the road, win four and they will surely be top of this list.

5. England

Which England team should we rank? The one that finished third in the Guinness Six Nations on points difference after winning two matches from five for the second year running?

Or the one that came from 1-0 down to win only their second series away in Australia?

Eddie Jones will be hoping the latter, and after a strong showing last November, a repeat this time around would be very welcome. There are injury concerns over some key men, not least Courtney Lawes and Owen Farrell, the two most recent captains.

And games against Argentina, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa provide both a World Cup amuse-bouche and a daunting challenge. Can they go unbeaten at Twickenham?

6. Australia

Noah Lolesio kicks 13/7/2021

It feels like quite a big drop from five to six, with plenty of teams having a case for being in this slot. In the end, we will go for Australia based on potential, even if they finished the Rugby Championship with three straight losses.

No team feels more up-and-down – the Wallabies beat England convincingly in their first Test of the year despite playing much of the match with 14, but then could not complete the job.

In Argentina they won big and then suffered a record loss and it was a similar story against the Springboks and the All Blacks – albeit losing both to the latter, one in heart-breaking fashion.

So will it be more of the same in November? They kick off against Scotland this weekend, before France, Italy, Ireland and Wales. That is a demanding schedule for a team who have had to deal with plenty of injuries already this year.

7. Argentina

Too high or too low? For the first time ever, Argentina were genuine title contenders in the Rugby Championship at the halfway stage, but a thumping loss to New Zealand and successive defeats to South Africa meant they finished bottom of the pile once again.

Under Michael Cheika, they certainly feel like they can trouble anyone on their day, and skipper Julian Montoya is among the very best hookers and captains on the planet, while Emiliano Boffelli is deadly accurate from anywhere within 50 metres.

England, Wales and Scotland will provide differing challenges, and while Argentina will probably be underdogs in all three, they will fancy their chances of coming away with at least one win.

8. Wales

Faletau rugby

The injury bug has already started for Wales, with captain Dan Biggar ruled out, and the likes of Josh Adams and George North also doubts.

They came home from South Africa with some regrets but also after making history – much-needed following the one-win campaign in the Guinness Six Nations.

Wayne Pivac’s side take on New Zealand, Argentina, Georgia and Australia with a minimum expectation of two wins that will not necessarily be straightforward.

9. Scotland

Ewan Ashman Scotland

Probably too low for a team who will be favourites for three of their four matches but Scotland feel like a team who have not taken their chances this year, defeats in Wales and throwing away the series in Argentina underlining that point.

There is debate over the omission of Finn Russell, but few teams have a better back three and the back row also looks very strong with new skipper Jamie Ritchie.

Start with a win against Australia and they could shoot up this list. Lose that and the pressure is on against Fiji before they welcome New Zealand and Argentina.

10. Samoa

Under the radar, Samoa have enjoyed something of a renaissance this year, winning the Pacific Nations Cup as they went unbeaten against Australia A, Tonga and Fiji.

Six of their 12 tries came from their hookers, with their rolling maul a massive weapon and with the likes of Theo McFarland, Fritz Lee and Jordan Taufua at their disposal, their pack will be a threat for anyone.

They start their campaign away in Italy in their only match in the Autumn Nations Series, with games in Romania and Georgia after that.

11. Georgia

After that historic win over Italy in the summer, we have to put Georgia next, with the Lelos facing three intriguing match-ups this November.

They start with home games against Uruguay and then Samoa before the big Autumn Nations series clash away to Wales.

Even without the suspended Gela Aprasidze, they are certainly more than a big pack, and in Davit Niniashvili, they might have one of the breakout stars of the autumn,

12. Italy


Under Kieran Crowley, Italy finally ended their long wait for a Guinness Six Nations win by triumphing in Cardiff, and they made it three in a row by beating Portugal and Romania in July.

That defeat to Georgia sees them drop down a little though, and this Autumn Nations Series gives them a chance to make a leap up this list.

Samoa, Australia and South Africa will all be tough challenges, but if they Azzurri can come away with one win, or maybe more, there will be plenty of reason to believe in their upward trajectory, particularly considering the age profile of the squad and the strength of their Under-20s.

13. Fiji

Almost certainly too low, but Fiji did not really play their best rugby in the Pacific Nations Cup outside a convincing opening win over Tonga.

Their backs remain as dangerous as ever, and it is not just on the wing. Few teams, if any, boast a better trio of centres than Waisea Nayacalevu, Vilimoni Botitu and Sireli Maqala.

There has been something of a changing of the guard in the pack though, and that will be the real test of where they stand.

Beat either Scotland or Ireland and they will shoot up these rankings.

14. Japan

Someone has to be last, and it feels a little tough on Japan considering they came so close to beating France in the summer.

Still, despite a couple of convincing wins over Uruguay in July, their record since the last World Cup has not been that impressive.

They have possibly the hardest schedule of any team, taking on the All Blacks this weekend at home before England and France. A win from one of those three games would be hugely impressive.

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