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France go top for first time in World Rugby rankings history

France have climbed to the top of the men’s world rugby union rankings for the first time, with New Zealand dropping to an all-time low of fourth place following a hectic weekend of Test action.

Six Nations Grand Slam champions France’s hard-fought 20-15 win away to Japan on Saturday was followed by home defeats for both New Zealand and world champions South Africa.

As a result, Les Bleus — who ended a 12-year wait for a Grand Slam in March — climbed to number one on Monday, with a lead of nearly two-thirds of a point over Ireland who move up two places to second.

“This is the tremendous success of all French rugby,” said French rugby federation president Bernard Laporte in a post on Twitter.

“For the first time in its history, the XV of France reached 1st place in the world ranking. 

“Thanks to the players, to (head coach) Fabien Galthie, (team manager) Raphael Ibanez and his staff. Thanks to the professional clubs, (French club league) LNR and to amateur rugby.” 

Ireland would have gone top but Will Jordan’s late try for the home team brought the winning margin in the 23-12 victory over the All Blacks in Dunedin below the 16 points required.

The All Blacks’ defeat by Ireland dropped them two places to fourth.

Ireland’s first win over the All Blacks on New Zealand soil has set up a series decider in Wellington this coming Saturday. 

With France, next year’s World Cup hosts, and Ireland occupying first and second, it is the first time since the rankings were introduced in October 2003, that northern hemisphere teams have occupied the top two spots.

South Africa started the July internationals top of the rankings but have dropped to third following a dramatic 13-12 loss to Wales in Bloemfontein.

Wins for England and Scotland against Australia and Argentina respectively have moved them above their beaten opponents, into fifth and seventh respectively. 

The Wallabies are down to sixth, while the Pumas are ninth, a fall of two places.

Georgia, meanwhile, have moved above Italy into 12th after beating the Azzurri 28-19 in Batumi on Sunday.

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