A convincing 29-7 win over defending champions Wales followed by England’s 20-17 defeat by Scotland in Edinburgh resulted in the teams swapping places in third and fourth, respectively.
England started the day 1.3 rating points and one place better off than Ireland in the rankings but they are now 0.17 points behind.
Third place is Ireland’s highest position since the early stages of Rugby World Cup 2019 and comes as just reward for a dominant display that brought them their ninth consecutive win.
Debutant Mack Hansen turned in a man-of-the-match performance and fellow winger Andrew Conway scored twice in a game that largely passed Wales by.
Garry Ringrose added a fourth on the hour mark with Wales’ only points coming from a late Taine Basham try.
Meanwhile, Scotland move above Australia and into sixth after celebrating back-to-back Calcutta Cup triumphs for the first time since 1983/84.
England dominated possession and territory on a damp day in Edinburgh and held a 17-10 lead going into the final quarter, with Marcus Smith scoring all of their points through a try and four penalties.
But Scotland – who were in front at the break after a try on debut from replacement scrum-half Ben White – were awarded a penalty try after Luke Cowan-Dickie deliberately slapped a Finn Russell cross-kick into touch when Darcy Graham was in a position to catch the ball and score, and then sealed victory with a late Finn Russell penalty.
On Sunday, France eventually got the job done against Italy at a rain-swept Stade de France and finished the opening weekend on top of the table on points difference from Ireland.
Italy showed plenty of resolve and led midway through the first half when 19-year-old Tommaso Menoncello brilliantly touched down from a cross-field kick to become the youngest scorer in the Championship for 55 years.
However, a hat-trick of tries from Gabin Villiere and one from opposite wing Damian Penaud, after flanker Anthony Jelonch had got the ball rolling with Les Bleus’ first try, saw the pre-tournament title favourites secure a bonus-point victory.
With such a big difference between the sides in the rankings, the result didn’t lead to any changes in terms of their rating points or positions.
In case you missed the tension in Tbilisi earlier! https://t.co/eyiOXDNk52— Nick Heath (@nickheathsport) February 6, 2022
PORTUGAL IMPRESS IN TBILISI
Portugal made the headlines in the Rugby Europe Championship 2022 by holding Georgia to a 25-25 draw in a pulsating game in Tbilisi.
Os Lobos had put themselves in a position to beat Georgia for the first time since 2005 thanks to some brilliant running rugby that brought tries for Manuel Pinto, Rodrigo Marta and José Lima.
However, Georgia dug in and used their forwards to salvage something from the game, Tornike Jalagonia powering over in the 66th minute to add to earlier tries from Akaki Tabutsadze and Grigor Kerdikoshvili.
Not only do Portugal pick up two valuable points in pursuit of one of the two automatic Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification places but they also climb three places in the rankings to 17th, moving above USA, Uruguay and border rivals Spain.
Spain convincingly won their opening game in the Rugby Europe Championship 2022, 43-0 against the Netherlands but they did not pick up any rating points for what was an expected victory against the competition’s bottom team.
In the only other game of the weekend, Romania came out on top in a full-on forward battle against Russia, winning 34-25. Again, the result did not have an impact on either teams’ rankings, so Romania remain in 15th and Russia 25th.