Scots back in IRB top ten after Italy win

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SCOTLAND’S last-gasp win over Italy helped to secure a return to top ten in the IRB World Rankings.

Having lost to Samoa and South Africa in the Castle Lager Test Series, the Scots fell to 11th but Saturday’s injury-time score by flanker Alasdair Strokosch and conversion from skipper Greig Laidlaw, to snatch a 30-29 win, suddenly propelled them back above Argentina (now tenth) and Tonga (11th), despite the Pumas beating Georgia 29-18 at the weekend.

New Zealand remain well out in front at the top of the world rankings after beating France on successive weekends, while South Africa’s 56-23 win over Samoa improves their points total but leaves them unchanged in second. Australia are third and will begin their bid to change the world order in the Rugby Championship, once they have dealt with the British and Irish Lions, while England, France, Wales and Samoa fill the next spots, the Samoans remaining seventh, despite convincing wins over Scotland and Italy, but now just a victory away from the top six.

The Scots are still a bit behind Ireland in eighth and there is movement outside the top ten, with fewer than 5.5 rating points now between Scotland in ninth and DTH van der Merwe’s Canada in 15th, which could set up an exciting push for the top ten next season.

Scotland supporters will note the rise of Japan, who followed a 16-13 win over Canada with a 38-20 victory against the USA, and now sit in 14th, closing in on Fiji and Italy. The Japanese will be Scotland’s first opponents in this year’s autumn Test series at Murrayfield, with Australia and the Springboks the other nations heading this way.

Japan have set themselves a target of a first World Cup quarter-final appearance in 2015, a tournament they are likely to open against Scotland in Gloucester, ahead of their first hosting of the event in 2019.