On another big weekend for women’s international rugby, Fiji, Kenya, Cameroon and Madagascar have an opportunity to climb to their highest-ever positions in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini.
Fiji take on Australia in Sydney on Saturday, while as the host nation for the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup Division 1 2023, Madagascar will welcome South Africa, Kenya and Cameroon to Antananarivo for the opening round of the competition.
This year’s Division 1 tournament serves as a qualifier for WXV 2 and WXV 3, so all of the teams will be looking to get off to a good start. But for Madagascar, Kenya and Cameroon there is also an opportunity to pick up rating points in a bid to improve their ranking.
Madagascar face Kenya in their opening match and there is history between the teams. Kenya defeated Madagascar 35-5 when they made their test debut in August 2019 but the Lady Makis have won both tests since then.
Any form of win for Madagascar against Kenya this weekend would be rewarded with a new high of 24th and result in a three-place drop for the Lionesses – four if the margin is by more than 15 points or Cameroon cause a huge upset by beating South Africa.
But if Kenya end Madagascar’s five-match unbeaten run they will climb two places to a new high of 23rd, leaping over Trinidad and Tobago and Portugal.
New challenge for Springbok Women
South Africa are guaranteed to remain in 13th whether they win or lose. A win over Cameroon in the first meeting between the nations will not come with any reward due to the near 23-point rating gap between the teams, while any form of defeat would not reduce the Springbok Women’s rating sufficiently for them to lose ground either.
Cameroon, however, stand to gain as many as six places if they win by more than 15 points and the result of the Kenya-Madagascar falls in their favour. At the very least, Cameroon will climb four places in victory to equal their highest-ever position of 25th.
This will be only the fifth time Cameroon’s women have taken to the field in a test and they have yet to lose, scoring 132 points and only conceding three.
But against a Springbok Women team that competed at Rugby World Cup 2021 back in October and won their most recent test against Spain, 35-20 in Madrid, that record will be put under huge pressure.
Setting the platform in Sydney
Australia and Fiji meet for only the second time in Saturday’s standalone test at the Allianz Stadium in Sydney, which will be played as a double-header with the Waratahs-Fijian Drua encounter in Super Rugby Pacific.
The Wallaroos came out on top in the only previous encounter, winning 36-19 at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane in May 2022.
In terms of the rankings, Australia cannot improve their rating with victory over Fiji due to the 19.67 points difference between the teams before home weighting is factored in.
A win, however, will set the Wallaroos up nicely for a year in which they will play eight tests – their most-ever outside of a Rugby World Cup year – as well as giving retiring captain, Shannon Perry, a suitable sign-off in her last appearance.
For Fiji, the match is being used as preparation for the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship, which takes place on Australia’s Gold Coast from 26 May-4 June.
The tournament also features Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga with the winner qualifying for WXV 2 and the runner-up slotting into WXV 3 later in the year.
A draw would be enough for Fiji to move above Hong Kong China into 16th place in the rankings, while Australia would just about hang on to fifth albeit with only a three decimal-point difference over Wales.
A new high awaits Fiji if they can beat Australia for the first time. They will climb two places to 15th in victory – with a further place possible if the margin is by more than 15 points as this would also lift them above Russia.
Defeat would cost Australia two places with USA and Wales the beneficiaries.