Rugby World Cup 2019 Power Rankings: Fiji rekindle fading playoff hopes

OPINION: The 2019 Rugby World Cup has found its first quarter-finalists, but with a week remaining in pool play, almost anything is still possible.

England and France are confirmed as the top two teams from Pool C, after eliminating Argentina from contention, but their finishing order will depend on their impending head-to-head meeting. 

The other three pools are still up for grabs - even the All Blacks could still miss out altogether, if they slip up against Italy in their final pool outing.

This week has been one of consolidation for most of the top sides, with no real upsets and only two minor changes in our top-10 power rankings.

But one team that seemed down and out have cracked the rankings with a late playoff run... 

1. New Zealand

Last week: First (-)
This week: Beat Canada 63-0, beat Namibia 71-9

Expected comprehensive wins over the tournament's lowest-ranked teams threatened to take the wind out of the All Blacks' sails, so it remains to be seen how they emerge from their two weeks 'off'.

We haven't seen a consistent performance from the defending champions - conditions may have a lot to do with that, but perhaps it's also a matter of playing to those conditions.

They'll want a dominant showing in their final pool game, before learning their playoff opponents from Ireland-Scotland-Japan.

Next week: v Italy (Saturday)

2. South Africa

Last week: Second (-)
This week: Beat Italy 49-3

Dominated the short-handed Italians and continue to appeal as the team to beat later in the tournament.

Apart from a 10-minute patch against the All Blacks, they've been impressive and shouldn't miss a beat in their final pool outing - but then they face an 11-day lull before the quarter-finals.

The way things are panning out across the draw, even a second-place finish in Pool B may not be the worst outcome.

Next week: v Canada (Tuesday)

3. England

Last week: Fourth (+1)
This week: Beat Argentina 39-10

Became the first team to reach the knockout stages with a comprehensive result over the short-handed South Americans.

The English have probably had the perfect draw through pool play, gradually building through a schedule that conveniently ranked opponents in ascending order of world ranking.

This means they'll presumably reach their peak at the right time of the tournament, although their pool placing and quarter-final opponents will still be decided in their final prelim outing.

Next week: v France (Saturday)

4. Wales

Last week: Third (-1)
This week: No game

Victory over Australia gave them the inside running to the quarter-finals and they've had a week to prepare for an outing against the dangerous Fijians. Does this pool have one last twist left in its tail?

The Welsh only need one from their last two games to progress.

Next week: v Fiji (Wednesday), v Uruguay (Sunday) 

5. Ireland

Last week: Fifth (-)
This week: Beat Russia 35-0

Safely negotiated the bottom team in their pool to get their campaign back on track, after the shock loss to Japan.

They shouldn't have too much trouble with a Samoan side backing up off a Samoan side that hasn't threatened an upset so far this tournament.

Their three bonus points serve them in good stead and another such win would see them safely to the next stage.

Next week: v Samoa (Saturday)

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6. Australia

Last week: Sixth (-)
This week: Beat Uruguay 40-3

Showed flashes against the South Americans, even when they were down to 14 men, but at this stage of the tournament, discipline looks like their biggest issue and it may come back to bite them at the business end.

They shouldn't have too much trouble winning their last pool game to move on.

Next week: v Georgia (Friday)

7. Japan

Last week: Seventh (-)
This week: Beat Samoa 38-19

Successfully negotiated a banana-skin game against as side known for pulling World Cup upsets.

Their fate now comes down to the final pool game of the draw and a showdown with the lacklustre Scots. A win would likely set up a quarter-final against South Africa, but a loss may see them become only the second team to win three World Cup pool games without advancing.

The other team was the 2015 Japanese side. 

Next week: v Scotland (Sunday)

8. France

Last week: Eighth (-)
This week: Beat USA 33-9, beat Tonga 23-21

Another Jekyll-and-Hyde performance against the Americans threatened to derail their World Cup hopes, but they finally had too much firepower for their plucky opponents.

They barely survived a spirited Tongan comeback to become the second team to secure a playoff spot, but their pool placing still won't be clear until their final outing.

Have shown enough to make them a side no-one wants to meet later in the tournament.

Next week: v England (Saturday)

9. Fiji

Last week: Unranked
This week: Beat Georgia 45-10

After their shock loss to Uruguay, the Fijians showed the form that threatened to turn Pool D on its head on opening weekend. Crack the top 10 with the most exciting performance of the week, particularly impressive in the forward exchanges against a forward-oriented team.

They still have a very slim hope of making the quarter-finals, but would need too many other results to go too far against the odds.

The Pacific Islanders have World Cup history against the Welsh, so maybe they can still be the spoilers on this side of the draw.

Next week: v Wales (Wednesday)

10. Argentina

Last week: Ninth (-1)
This week: Lost to England 39-10

Their tournament is as good as done now, after their ill-disciplined loss to the English - a disappointing outcome for a team that has made quarter-finals at the last three events and semis twice.

If they had managed to hold on another 12 minutes against France, the result could have been very different, but now they have one more outing to secure a spot at the next World Cup in four years.

Next week: v USA (Wednesday)

11. Scotland

Last week: 10th (-)
This week: No game

Pretty easy to forget Scotland are even in this tournament, after their terrible opening loss, a ho-hum win over disappointing Samoa, and with all the drama in their pool coming from Ireland and Japan.

This week, they face their four-day turnaround and they'll likely need bonus-point wins to secure passage into the quarter-finals.

Next week: v Russia (Wednesday), v Japan (Sunday)

Essential Guide to 2019 Rugby World Cup

Everything you need to know about rugby and the World Cup...

The ninth Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 20 in Japan - the first time it has been hosted in Asia.

Grant Chapman is Newshub online sports editor

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