England set for world rankings boost on Monday
All the bad vibes of early 2018 are being washed away.
Eddie Jones appears to have guided his England side through a storm and, on the other side of a damaging losing losing streak, they are on the up again. For Ireland, whom they beat on Saturday, they have slipped back.
Going into the 2019 Guinness Six Nations, Ireland were seeking to be the first country since France, over 20 years ago, to record back-to-back Grand Slams. It would be far from easy but doing it would also put them in line to overtake New Zealand as world number one.
Having defeated Steve Hansen's men back in November, the summit was within touching distance. On Saturday at a strangely sombre Aviva Stadium, Ireland were ripped back towards the chasing pack.
England bossed Ireland for most of an attritional, kick-heavy game and were out of sight, leading 32-13, until John Cooney's late try made the final score look closer than it looked. England got the rub of the green when Maro Itoje avoided a sin-binning and a Henry Slade pass was not called forward but Ireland could only have themselves to blame.
Following the game, Joe Schmidt said:
"Yeah, that is a reality check, that's how it's going to be. That's why England are such a, literally, a big team.
"They did really well tonight. it's hard to take anything away from England. The intensity they brought to the game, it was more a simmering physical intensity that they collectively delivered that made it a suffocating place to be out on the pitch."
A further dose of reality will arrive on Monday when the World Rugby rankings are officially updated. Ireland's defeat sees them lose 1.79 ranking points, and they are now over three points back from the All Blacks. England leapfrog Wales into third place while the French plummet continues.
England have now won five of their last six Test matches and are the new tournament favourites, just shading Wales. France have now dropped to 10th in the world after coughing one up to Wales in Paris, on Friday.
Next up for Ireland are seventh place Scotland. An Irish loss in Edinburgh would cost them a further 1.45 rankings points and, should they beat France, see them overtaken by England.