Ireland have moved up to third place in the latest rugby World Rankings, writes Stephen Barry.
After a November campaign in which they defeated South Africa, Fiji and Argentina, Joe Schmidt’s men have leapfrogged Australia, who shipped heavy losses to England and Scotland.
New Zealand continue to lead the rankings, ahead of England in second.
The Springboks, Scotland and Wales remain fifth, sixth and seventh respectively.
Ireland’s opening 6 Nations opponents, France and Italy, both fell one place in the rankings.
The French slipped into ninth behind Argentina, while Conor O’Shea’s Italy are now back in 14th, behind Tonga.