Rugby World Cup 2019 Power Rankings: Wales, Japan weather the storm

OPINION: The top eight teams have clearly separated themselves from the pack at the Rugby World Cup - and it's hard to feel too sorry for any that have missed out on quarter-finals.

While Japan have emerged as the Cinderella story of their home tournament, none of those bowing out at this stage can quibble that they are unlucky or hard done by.

Fiji promised so much, but ultimately delivered little in terms of results, while Italy seem no closer to competing with tier-one teams than they've ever been.

Of course, by default, two 'lucky losers' must crack our top 10...

1. New Zealand

Last week: First (-)

This week: No result v Italy
Hard to rate a team that doesn't play, but the cancellation of their game against Italy will not help their build-up to the playoffs, especially coming off soft games against the two lowest-ranked teams in the tournament.

The two-time defending champs needed a decent hit-out to rebuild momentum, but must now find that from within.

Next week: Quarter-final v Ireland (Saturday)

2. Wales

Last week: Fourth (+2)
This week: Beat Fiji 29-17, beat Uruguay 35-13

While many of their rivals went gameless, the Welsh successfully completed their pool campaign with the short turnaround, conceding the first 10 points against Fiji and scrambling from behind over the final 27 minutes.

Their second team probably struggled more than they should have against the South Americans.

But while everyone else risk being underdone, at least Wales will enter the quarter-finals with a full head of steam. 

Next week: Quarter-final v France (Sunday)

3. South Africa

Last week: Second (-1)
This week: Beat Canada 66-7

Completed their pool schedule with a regulation victory over the woeful North Americans, which was only slightly more useful than having their game called off altogether.

At least they had a hit-out, even if it was mainly their second-stringers.

Next week: Quarter-final v Japan (Sunday)

4. England

Last week: Third (-1)
This week: No result v France

Ditto, New Zealand. 

But while the English had the best build-up through pool play - with each consecutive opponent ranked higher the previous one - that would have meant a tough run to the trophy, with five potential tier-one teams along the way.
At least the cancelled France match breaks up that testing schedule.

Next week: Quarter-final v Australia (Saturday)

5. Ireland

Last week: Fifth (-)
This week: Beat Samoa 47-5

Despite playing a man short for 52 minutes, the Irish were totally untroubled by the Pacific Islanders, who have barely fired a shot at this tournament.

That result confirmed them through to the next stage, after their earlier slip-up against Japan, but they pay a price for their early stumble, drawing the reigning champions.

Next week: Quarter-final v New Zealand (Saturday)

rwc rankings
Photo credit: Newshub.

6. Japan

Last week: Seventh
This week: Beat Scotland 28-21

Did more than anyone dared dream coming into the tournament, beating two Six Nations sides to top their pool.

While the Scots moaned about how a natural disaster might derail their campaign, the 'Brave Blossoms' gave a nation something to cheer about.

Beating Scotland doesn't make Japan contenders, but they do solidify their status as emotional favourites. 

Next week: Quarter-final v South Africa (Sunday)

7. Australia

Last week: Sixth
This week: Beat Georgia 27-8

Were already through to the playoffs and momentarily moved to the top of the pool, when they eased home against the unimpressive Georgians.

Still haven't quite figured out their best line-up and now have concerns over Kurtley Beale's health (which may provide a partial solution to their first problem), so big questions before the sudden-death stage.

Next week: Quarter-final v England (Saturday)

8. France

Last week: Eighth
This week: No result v England

You get the feeling the French will be least affected by the cancellation of their final pool game, given they don't seem to need any momentum or form to produce their best (or worst) performance.

NZ rugby fans should probably breathe a sigh of relief that they are now on the other side of the draw and can't ambush the All Blacks until the final. 

Next week: Quarter-final v (Sunday)

9. Argentina

Last week: 10th
This week: Beat USA 47-17

Unlucky in their opener against France, but didn't do enough through the rest of the tournament to resurrect their hopes of advancement.

Disappointing outcome for a team that made three straight playoffs and two semi-finals. 

Next week: No game

10. Scotland

Last week: 11th
This week: Beat Russia 61-0, Lost to Japan 28-21

Blanked Russia to take the outright lead for holding opponents scoreless at the Rugby World Cup - that's a great stat.

After all the posturing and legal threats, they got their chance to play for a quarter-final spot and blew it. No sympathy here.

They now have four more years to build towards their next World Cup campaign.

Next week: No game

Join us for live updates of all Rugby World Cup quarter-finals next weekend.

Grant Chapman is Newshub's online sports editor.