Following the completion of the European qualifiers for Rugby World Cup 2023, two more teams have been added to the list of confirmed participants.
We give you a lowdown on who has secured their invitation to France and who could be set to join them…
WHICH TEAMS HAVE ALREADY QUALIFIED?
Twelve teams qualified directly for France due to their performance at the previous Rugby World Cup in Japan three years ago.
The top three teams from each of the four pools at RWC 2019 booked their ticket to France. These include champions South Africa, runners-up England and the teams they beat in the semi-finals, Wales and New Zealand.
Beaten quarter-finalists Australia, Ireland, Japan and hosts France will also be at RWC 2023, as will Scotland, Italy, Argentina and Fiji who each finished third in their respective pool.
Samoa secured their place at RWC 2023 last July, beating Tonga over two legs to claim the Oceania 1 qualifier berth.
Three months later Uruguay beat the USA in a home-and-away play-off to become the 14th team to punch their ticket to France, as Americas 1.
Then it was the turn of Georgia and Spain to confirm their presence in France, qualifying as Europe 1 and Europe respectively following top-two finishes in the combined standings for the Rugby Europe Championship in 2021 and 2022.
Georgia have been ever-presents on the Rugby World Cup stage since their debut tournament in 2003, while Spain can now look forward to appearing at the sport’s marquee event for the first time since their one and only previous appearance in 1999.
HOW WILL THE REMAINING QUALIFIERS BE DECIDED?
Qualification tournaments will continue throughout 2022 to decide the identity of the remaining four nations who will compete at RWC 2023.
Since losing the Oceania 1 play-off to Samoa, Tonga have beaten the Cook Islands and will play the winner of the Asia Rugby Championship in July to decide who qualifies for RWC 2023 as Asia/Pacific 1.
The USA, meanwhile, will have a second chance to reach a ninth Rugby World Cup when they play Chile – who ended Canada’s ever-present record – in the Americas 2 play-off over two legs, again in July.
It has been confirmed that the Rugby Africa Cup 2022 will be held in the south of France from 1-10 July, with the winner of the eight-team knockout tournament qualifying for RWC 2023 as Africa 1.
Matches will be played at Stade Maurice-David in Aix-en-Provence and Stade Pierre-Delort in Marseille, which hosted the RWC 2019 Final Qualification Tournament.
Namibia, who are bidding to reach a seventh successive Rugby World Cup, Senegal, Uganda and Zimbabwe qualified for the quarter-finals as pool winners.
They have been joined in the last eight by pool runners-up Burkina Faso, Algeria, Kenya and Ivory Coast.
Burkina Faso, the lowest competing nation on the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini at 91, will take on Namibia, while Senegal play Algeria, Uganda face Kenya and Zimbabwe are scheduled to meet Ivory Coast between 1-2 July.
The winner of the quarter-final between Namibia and Burkina Faso will meet either Zimbabwe or Ivory Coast – who have appeared at three Rugby World Cups between them – in the semi-finals.
Either Senegal or Algeria will then play the winner of the quarter-final between Uganda and East Africa rivals Kenya for a place in the final.
A bronze final, as well as fifth-place and seventh-place play-offs, will be held on 10 July prior to the final, in which Africa’s representative at RWC 2023 will be decided.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER ROUTES TO RWC 2023?
Yes, one route to France will remain open for the teams that narrowly miss out on RWC 2023 qualification via the regional competitions.
The RWC 2023 Final Qualification Tournament will consist of four nations – Romania, as the third-ranked team in the combined 2021 and 2022 Rugby Europe Championship table, plus the losing finalist from the Rugby Africa Cup 2022 and the sides that are beaten in the Asia/Pacific and Americas 2 play-offs.
Played in a round-robin format, the team that finishes top of the Final Qualification Tournament standings will claim the final place at RWC 2023.
WHEN WILL THE FINAL QUALIFICATION TOURNAMENT TAKE PLACE?
The Final Qualification Tournament, as the name suggests, will be the last stage of qualifying for RWC 2023.
It is scheduled to be played in November and the venue will be confirmed in due course.
Source: World Rugby
Frederick Marfo is a sportswriter and social worker well known for his advocacy for equal chances and rights for all athletes, especially those with disabilities.