Tonga received a timely boost as they count down to their Rugby World Cup 2011 opening match against New Zealand on 9 September with a three-place rise to 12th in the IRB World Rankings on the back of their 32-20 victory over Fiji in Lautoka.
The Ikale Tahi avenged last weekend’s loss at the same Churchill Park venue for their second win in three meetings with Fiji in the last six weeks and as a result have swapped places with their hosts, who take over Tonga’s previous 15th spot.
For Tonga, who beat Fiji 45-21 during the IRB Pacific Nations Cup in July, the climb means they equal their highest ever standing since the IRB World Rankings were introduced in October 2003, but for Fiji the defeat means they have slipped to their lowest ever position.
Tonga are not the only nation on the rise in the latest rankings with Wales and Scotland both climbing one place as a result of RWC 2011 warm-up victories over Argentina and Italy respectively on Saturday.
Wales followed up their victory over England last weekend with a 28-13 success against Argentina at the Millennium Stadium to climb above Ireland into sixth spot, the Irish slipping down after losing 26-22 to France.
Ireland have now slipped three places in the last three weeks after losses to Scotland and France, the latter home and away, and unless the men in green can beat England in Dublin next weekend with arrive at RWC 2011 on the back of four defeats.
The combination of Argentina’s loss to Wales and Scotland’s 23-12 victory over Italy at Murrayfield mean the two nations swap places with the Scots now occupying eighth spot and closing in on Ireland.
France remain the leading northern hemisphere nation in fourth, now slightly further behind South Africa after the Springboks picked up their first win of 2011 by defeating a New Zealand outfit 18-5 in their Tri Nations encounter in Port Elizabeth.
South Africa remain two points adrift of Australia in second, while New Zealand’s defeat has seen their advantage over the Wallabies reduced to 3.89 points ahead of their Tri Nations title decider in Brisbane this weekend.
The only other RWC 2011 warm-up match, between Japan and USA at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo on Sunday, did not have an impact on either side’s ratings with the Brave Blossoms’ 20-14 win keeping them 13th and the Eagles in 18th.
Romania, another side finalising preparations for RWC 2011, were also in action over the weekend, playing their rearranged European Nations Cup encounter in the Ukraine and running out 41-16 winners.
The victory improved Romania’s rating by just over a tenth, but they remain 18th and more than four and a half points behind ENC pacesetters Georgia. Ukraine remain 33rd despite the defeat on home soil in Lvov.
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