England retain their No 1 ranking, but they are only 20 points ahead of the in-form New Zealand side. All 20 World Cup sides are ranked in the world's top 20.
The rankings indicate that Pool A will be the most tightly contested at the Cup, with Australia ranked third and coming up against two of the big improvers in world rugby - Ireland (No 6) and Argentina (No 7).
Wales are in Pool D with New Zealand (No 2), Canada (No 11), Italy (No 13) and Tonga (No 14).
In the 1999 World Cup, New Zealand went in as the No 1 side with eventual winners Australia in second place and runners-up France fifth.
Zurich World Rankings (as of Sept 6, 2003): 1. England 1298 points, 2. New Zealand 1278, 3. Australia 1108, 4. France 1103, 5. South Africa 1006, 6. Ireland 929, 7. Argentina 858, 8. Scotland 756, 9. Wales 699, 10. Samoa 675, 11. Canada 569, 12. Fiji 561, 13. Italy 549, 14. Tonga 527, 15. Japan 457, 16. United States, 17. Georgia 363, 18. Romania 357, 19. Namibia 303, 20. Uruguay 295.
Dodgy tattoos, carthorses, Avatar and soft chins are revealed by Wales Sevens players Tom Williams and Sam Cross as they profile the Wales Sevens squad taking part in Hong Kong this weekend in the latest round of the HSBC Sevens World Series.
The youngest member of the Wales Women's squad, Keira Bevan, is hoping to repay the faith shown in her when she starts her first Six Nations game against Italy tomorrow evening in the final round of the championship.
Sevens head coach Gareth Williams is a happy man after drafting in full internationals Rhodri Williams and Adam Warren for the next two rounds of the world series in Hong Kong and Japan, as WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie discovers.