There’s still some places up for grabs at RWC 2023
Hello. Haven’t been here in a while. As we are doing maintenance on our website over at Post to Post Sport and having what you may call a transitional period, I’ve decided to jump back on to Harpin’ On Rugby for a few pieces. First things first, I want to look at the upcoming qualifiers for the 2023 RWC. So far 16 teams have qualified. Here I’ll take a look at how they made their way here before going into how the remaining places will be decided.
The teams that finished in the top 3 of their World Cup Pool in 2019 qualify automatically for the 2023 edition. These are Champions South Africa, Runners-Up England, semi-finalists New Zealand and Wales, Quarter-finalists Japan, Ireland, Australia, and France (who qualified as hosts anyway), and 3rd place pool teams Scotland, Italy, Argentina, and Fiji. That means 12 of the 20 places for the 2023 World Cup were determined during the last tournament.
A further 4 qualifiers have been determined through continental qualifiers.
The places for Europe 1, and Europe 2 were determined by the 2021 and 2022 editions of the Rugby Europe Championship. The combined table over two editions of the tournament was used to determine the two automatic qualifiers.
Georgia qualified as Europe 1, having gone unbeaten in the tournament with 9 wins and a draw.
Originally Spain had finished in 2nd place and qualified, however they were found to have fielded and ineligible player and deducted 10 points. They were also eliminated from the qualifiers in this manner ahead of the 2019 World Cup. This resulted in Romania (having originally finished 3rd) qualifying as Europe 2. Netherlands finished bottom of the table, and Russia were disqualified as they have been from many sporting events due to the on going war in Ukraine.
There were a series of games to determine who would take the first of the Americas qualifier spots. In round one Brazil beat Paraguay 29-0 to qualify for the next stage. Chile and Colombia were scheduled to play, however due to COVID-19 cases in the Colombian team the game was cancelled, and Chile progressed.
Round 2 was split into regional games, over South and North America. In the South American Championship Uruguay finished top of the table over Chile and Brazil to qualify for the play-off for the first Americas spot. Chile finished second to advance to the further rounds. In the North American side of things, the USA beat Canada over two legs by an aggregate score of 59-50 to progress to the play-off for the first Americas spot. Previously this tie had acted as the sole qualifier for the first Americas place.
In the play-off for the first Americas place, Uruguay beat the USA over two legs by and aggregate score of 50-34. Uruguay qualified as Americas 1 for the first time.
In the Oceania Play-Off, Samoa beat Tonga over two legs by an aggregate score of 79-28 to qualify as Oceania 1. Originally the 2021 Oceania Rugby Cup was going to determine who would face the loser of the Oceania 1 play-off. This was cancelled due to COVID. Cook Islands progressed as the highest ranked team over Papua New Guinea, Niue, Tahiti, and Solomon Islands. Tonga went on to beat the Cook Islands and will now go into the Asia/Pacific play-off match.
A Reminder of the World Cup Pools
That’s how the groups look right now, with some blanks to be filled in. Now we’ll go through how the remaining places will be decided. Here’s your guide for the remaining qualifiers, starting in June and concluding in November.
Places to be Decided
The Asia Rugby Championship has a new format for this year. Originally the top seed Hong Kong had withdrawn from the tournament but will now be able to compete. They will meet the winner of the semi-final between Korea Republic and Malaysia in the Asia Rugby Championship final. The final will see either Korea or Malaysia have home advantage. The winner of the Asia Rugby Championship will take on Tonga in a one-off match on July 23rd. The winner of that game will qualify as Asia/Pacific 1. The loser will go into the final qualification tournament.
Korea vs Malaysia (4th June)
Korea/Malaysia vs Hong Kong (8th/9th July)
Tonga vs Hong Kong or Korea/Malaysia (23rd July)
The second spot for the Americas will be decided in July. Last October Chile beat Canada over two legs to qualify for the play-off against the USA, who lost the Americas 1 play-off. This was the first time Chile beat Canada, and it means Canada have failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time ever. The winner of the two-legged tie between Chile and USA will qualify as Americas 2. The loser will go into the final qualification tournament.
Chile vs USA (9th July)
USA vs Chile (16th July)
Round 1 of the Rugby Africa Cup took place in June 2021. Burkina Faso beat out Cameroon and Burundi in a round-robin group to qualify for round 2.
Round 2 took place over July 2021. There were 4 pools of 3 with 2 teams qualifying from each. In pool A, Namibia topped the group with Ivory Coast coming second, Madagascar were eliminated. In Pool B, Senegal came 1st, Kenya finished 2nd, and Zambia were eliminated. In Pool C, Uganda finished top of the group with Algeria following them through, Ghana were eliminated. In Pool D Tunisia were forced to withdraw leaving Zimbabwe and Burkino Faso to get through 1st and 2nd respectively. The 2022 Africa Cup will now take place in July, as a single-elimination tournament. It will be held in France between Marseille and Aix-En-Provence. The winner will qualify as Africa 1, with the runner-up going into the final qualification tournament.
Quarter-Finals (1st July)
Namibia vs Burkina Faso
Zimbabwe vs Ivory Coast
Senegal vs Algeria
Uganda vs Kenya
Semi-Finals (5th July)
Namibia/Burkina Faso vs Zimbabwe/Ivory Coast
Senegal/Algeria vs Uganda/Kenya
Final (10th July)
Namibia/Burkina Faso/Zimbabwe/Ivory Coast vs Senegal/Algeria/Uganda/Kenya
Final Qualification Tournament
The 20th place at the World Cup will be determined by a final qualification tournament. This will see 4 teams play in a round-robin group, with the top team going through.
So far the only team that has qualified is Portugal. Having originally finished in 4th in the Rugby Europe Championship. They moved up to 3rd after Spain were deducted points, and will now play in the qualifier tournament. The loser of the play-off between USA and Chile will play in the tournament as the representative of the Americas. The runner-up of the Rugby Africa Cup will play as the Africa representative. And the loser of the Asia/Pacific play-off will also participate.
The teams will be:
Europe 3: Portugal
Americas 3: Loser of USA vs Chile
Asia/Oceania 2: Loser of Tonga vs Hong Kong/Korea Republic/ Malaysia
Africa 2: Runner-up of the Rugby Africa Cup (One of Namibia, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Algeria, Uganda, or Kenya).
The winner of this tournament will qualify as Qualification Tournament Winner. The tournament will take place during the November international window.
The first of the final 4 spots to be determined will be Africa 1. What makes this tournament interesting is that no team will have home advantage.
Namibia are generally favourites in the Rugby Africa Cup, however they had a shock loss to Ivory Coast in the second round. That being said they shouldn’t have difficulty against Burkina Faso who were hammered twice by Zimbabwe in the previous round and only progressed due to Tunisia’s withdrawal. There Namibia will meet the winner of Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast, with Zimbabwe the team likely to get through. That side of the draw may well offer up the winner, and with the semi-final being only 4 days later and Namibia having an easier tie, they will likely get through to the final. On the other side of the draw Senegal should see off Algeria easily enough, while Kenya, who are traditionally the nearly-men of this competition, should find their way past Kenya. Senegal could pull off a shock in the semi-finals against Kenya as they did in round 2 when they beat them by 1 point.
For the final I will predict Namibia to make it through against Senegal, with Namibia having the edge of recent world cup experience.
This two-legged affair may be tighter than people expect. Chile have improved immensely over the last number of years due to the Americas Rugby Championship and the South American club competition Super Liga Americana de Rugby where their representative, Selknam, finished 2nd and ultimately made it to the final where they were beaten by Uruguayan side Penarol. The USA will also experience the benefit of the MLS, and having been announced as the host of the 2031 edition of the men’s World Cup, failure really is not an option. It would be a fairy tale for Chile to qualify for their first ever World Cup (and it would be a complete anomaly to have three South American teams at the tournament). The USA will be favourites and may just edge the tie with the benefit of having the 2nd-leg at home.
All three teams haven’t had significant game time in recent years due to COVID-19. Hong Kong haven’t played since losing a November test match to Spain in 2019. This may somewhat level things up in terms of standards. Malaysia have never beaten Korea at this level and Korea, with home advantage, will likely go on to face Hong Kong in the final of the Asia championship. Traditionally Hong Kong would be significant favourites, but they have had a disrupted preparation for the tournament and the final would be in Korea. I will go with a shock result and say Korea Republic win. Regardless the winner will likely not have enough to beat Tonga who should see themselves through fairly comfortably.
Final Qualification Tournament
My predictions will see Portugal joined by Senegal, Chile, and Korea Republic. Portugal will be clear favourites for this tournament, however Chile will have a good chance of qualifying. It will most likely come down to the game between those two sides. I would say Portugal would likely get through in the end.
Predictions for filling in the blanks in the pools
From there it’s far too early to tell how things will shape up. In fact in my opinion the draw was made far too early and I plan to write a piece on how it should be made after all the teams have qualified, I’ll expand on that next week.
It’s nice to write for Harpin’ On Rugby again. Over at Post to Post Sport we’re planning on covering Champions Cup final, the URC play-offs, and Irelands tour of New Zealand on our social media. We hope to up our rugby coverage of the provinces and both the Irish men’s and women’s national teams next season.
Who do you think will qualify as the final 4 teams for the next men’s World Cup?
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