Twenty teams will compete in the 2023 Rugby World Cup, organised into four Pools (A to D). So, how are these teams selected, and what are the possible routes to RWC qualification? Let’s break down the basics.
Rugby World Cup Qualification Process
There are three main pathways to Rugby World Cup qualification:
- The first 12 teams automatically pre-qualify for the tournament based on their performance at the previous Rugby World Cup. This includes the reigning champions, semi-finalists, and the remaining three teams that finished top of each of the four pools.
- The next seven places are decided in regional tournaments (plus one cross-regional tournament).
- The final place in the tournament is awarded to the winner of the Final Qualification Tournament, a playoff between the runners-up of the various qualifying tournaments.
Rugby World Cup Pre-Qualified Teams
The 12 teams that pre-qualified for the 2023 Rugby World Cup based on their performance at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan are:
- South Africa (Winners)
- England (Runner-Up)
- New Zealand (Semi-Finalists)
- Wales (Semi-Finalists)
Rugby World Cup Qualifying Tournaments
Seven teams are selected for Rugby World Cup qualification via the following qualifying tournaments:
- Two teams (Americas 1 and Americas 2) are selected from the Americas – Rugby Americas North (RAN) and Sudamerica Rugby (SAR) regions – during the RAN Championship and the SAR 3 Nations tournament. The two runners-up then go head-to-head in the Americas 2 playoff qualifier.
- Two teams (Europe 1 and Europe 2) are selected from Europe during the Rugby Europe Championship.
- One team (Africa 1) will qualify from Africa – the winner of the Rugby Africa Cup 2022.
- One team (Oceania 1) will qualify from the Oceania Region through a regional tournament. The runner-up will then play off against the winner of the Oceania Rugby Men’s Championship to decide the Oceania 2 candidate.
- Finally, the seventh qualifying team (Asia/Pacific 1) will be decided by a cross-regional qualifier between the Oceania 2 team and the winner of the Asian Rugby Men’s Championship 2021.
Rugby World Cup Final Qualification Tournaments
The very last spot in the Rugby World Cup is awarded to the winner of the Final Qualification Tournament (held in November 2022). This is a round-robin tournament between four teams:
- The third-placed team in the Americas 1 and Americas 2
- The third-placed team in the Europe 1 and Europe 2
- The runner-up of the Rugby Africa Cup 2022.
- The runner-up of the Asia/Pacific 1 qualifying match.
2023 Rugby World Cup Pools
The twenty teams then form the four Rugby World Cup pools, which go on to compete against each other within the first phase of the Rugby World Cup tournament.
Want to follow your favourite team during the big event? Check out our 2023 Rugby World Cup Match Schedule.
Lead photo credit : © Shutterstock, Graphics courtesy of Rugby World
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