France were the biggest winners from a World Rugby Women’s Rankings perspective in a year when more internationals were played than ever before.
A Six Nations Grand Slam and an historic 30-27 win over New Zealand’s previously invincible Black Ferns in November saw Les Bleues pick up 2.2 rating points – the most by any team – over the course of a memorable 12 months.
It was still not enough for them to catch second-placed England, who they had beaten 18-17 in front of a record 17,440 crowd at the Stade des Alpes in Grenoble, but the gap between the two teams, which was 5.43 points at the start of January is now just 2.17 points as we enter 2019.
Meanwhile, New Zealand stay top on 94.71 points, the loss to France their only blemish in six test outings.
North American duo, Canada and USA remain in fourth and fifth position, but the Women’s Eagles ended the year on a high with a 19-10 victory over Ireland in Dublin. Australia are also unchanged in sixth despite home and away losses to New Zealand.
Having lost their first three tests of 2018 Italy rounded off the year with four straight victories, two of them against Scotland, to climb to an all-time high of seventh.
Both Wales and Ireland slipped a place in the rankings, to eight and 10th, with Rugby Europe Championship winners Spain sandwiched in between.
Bok with a bang
South Africa marked their return to the international fold after a four-year absence with three competitive outings against Wales, Spain and Italy. Despite being beaten in all three tests, the Springbok Women rose to an historic high of 12th due to Samoa’s demise.
A 43-12 defeat to Fijiana, who were ranked 18 places lower than them at the start of play, cost Manusina three rating points and the chance to win the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship.
Fijiana lifted the trophy instead and also climbed six places to 24th on the back of the memorable win at Churchill Park in Lautoka.
An expanded tournament also witnessed a first test win for Tonga as they beat Papua New Guinea 62-26 in the battle for third place. Tonga are now three places better off in 39th.
A 24-5 win for Germany against Belgium put them in 19th, a one-place improvement on their previous best, while their beaten opponents dropped to 22nd with Trinidad and Tobago the beneficiaries.
A surprise 10-5 defeat to the lower-ranked Czechia saw Switzerland slip three places to an all-time low of 40th. Despite gaining two points, Czechia remain at the foot of the rankings in 53rd.