Qualification for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France
France is gearing up to host the tenth men’s Rugby World Cup, to take place in 2023. Incidentally 2023 marks the 200th anniversary since William Webb Ellis supposedly invented rugby. The 2023 RWC will happen from 8 September to 21 October 2023 with Stade de France hosting the final fixture of the tournament.
The qualification process for France 2023 was confirmed in June and is accessible on the official Rugby World Cup website.
Twelve Qualifiers so far
In total, 20 countries will compete in 2023 Rugby Wold Cup. Twelve have qualified directly by finishing in the top three in their pools at the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup. These are England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, France, Italy, Fiji, Japan, Argentina, and of course South Africa. This leaves room for eight more nations to secure a place in the international rugby showcase.
How the Qualification Process Works
According to France 2023’s official website, the qualification process for the remaining eight teams is structured in such a way that all non-qualified unions have as equal a chance as possible of securing a spot in the next Rugby World Cup. The process involves a series of regional and cross-regional qualifying tournaments, which will begin in 2021.
A round-robin Final Qualification Tournament in November 2022, involving four teams from different regions, will determine the final qualifier.
Of the eight available places, there is a sure space for one direct qualifier from Africa. This will be the team who wins the Rugby Africa Cup 2022. The runners-up will enter the Final Qualification Tournament.
The Americas have two guaranteed places in the championship; the winners and runners-up of the regional qualifier tournament will receive direct places at France 2023. The team that comes third in the Americas tournament will move on to the Final Qualification Tournament.
Europe also has two guaranteed places for direct qualifiers in the 2023 RWC. The region will send the two teams that do best across the 2021 and 2022 editions of the Rugby Europe Championship. As with the Americas qualifier, the team that comes third in the Rugby Europe Championship will compete in the Final Qualification for a space in the RWC.
Oceania and Asia
Tonga and Samoa will represent the Oceania region which can send only one direct qualifier to France 2023. The two countries will compete in a home-and-away contest; the winners qualify for France 2023 as Oceania 1. Meanwhile, the losing team will not automatically go on to the Final Qualification Tournament. Instead it will face the winners of the Oceania Rugby Cup 2021 in a play-off. The winners of this contest will represent Oceania 2 to compete with Asia’s team in a home-and-away play-off (the Asia/Pacific play-off). The winners of this event will qualify for the 2023 Rugby World Cup; the losers will play in the Final Qualification competition for one last shot at a place.
The winners of the Asian Rugby Men’s Championship 2021 will be the team to represent Asia at France 2023.
France will host the 2023 Rugby World Cup
France won the vote to stage the 2023 RWC in 2017 after the Word Rugby Council carried out a secret ballot to choose the World Cup host. South Africa, the initial favourites to host, did miss out.
France’s win was controversial and met with much backlash. After all, the Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL) Board had recommended South Africa. Adding to the storm was the fact that France had contested this recommendation and reportedly lobbied for council votes.
Despite this controversy, organisers of the France Rugby World Cup are positive. Further, they expect great things for the upcoming event, which is predicted to be more competitive than ever. Claude Atcher, chief executive of France 2023, is excited by the growing popularity of rugby worldwide. “The success of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan and performances by the host nation is a testimony of rugby’s expansion globally.” said Atcher, adding that the World Cup in 2023 “will be the best tournament ever delivered.”
The World Cup pool draw should happen this year. Although whether more international matches will happen this year depends on the COVID-19 situation. The dates for the 2021 events are also affected and not yet confirmed.
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