RWC 2015 qualifying underway in Africa
• Four teams battle for place in next round
• 33 per cent growth in participation in Africa
• IRB investing more than GPB 7.32 million in Rugby in the Region
• Webb Ellis Cup on show in Madagascar at the Final on July 8
• IRB Vice Chairman Oregan Hoskins present for Final
The road to Rugby World Cup 2015 in England continues today with Madagascar hosting the beginning of the African qualification process that will deliver at least one team from the Region to Rugby's showcase event.
The Confédération Africaine de Rugby (CAR) Championship Division 1B event in Antananarivo from July 4-8 featuring Namibia, Morocco, Senegal and Madagascar will kick off a three-season process of promotion and relegation between the three divisions in the CAR Championship and culminate with one team directly qualifying for England 2015 as winners of the flagship CAR Division 1A Championship in 2014.
With participation in Africa having increased by 33 per cent over the last four years and Rugby the number one team sport in Madagascar, the stakes are high and a strong crowd is anticipated at the Mahamasina Stadium to see who will progress to the next stage of qualifying and a place in the CAR Championship Division 1A in 2013.
Present in Madagascar for the tournament will be IRB Vice Chairman Oregan Hoskins and accompanying him will be the Webb Ellis Cup, the iconic symbol of the pinnacle achievement in the Game and of true sporting excellence.
Also in attendance will be Ashwin Willemse, a RWC winner with South Africa in 2007, South Africa’s Player of the Year, Most Promising Player of the Year and Players' Player of the Year in 2003 following his outstanding performance at the Rugby World Cup in Australia.
Hoskins said: "Rugby is growing rapidly all around the world and we now have more than 5.5 million men, women and children playing the Game."
"Africa has been at the forefront of that growth with a 33 per cent increase in participation since 2007 - the largest rate of growth of all the Regions over the period. Working in partnership with CAR the IRB is investing GBP 7.32 million in competition, high performance and strategic programmes to ensure that African nations become more competitive on the world stage, that more people can participate and engage with the sport and that the awareness and profile of Rugby continues to spread throughout the Region."
"The Rugby World Cup qualifiers give all teams a clear pathway and a strong benchmark of what they need to achieve to play at the highest level. I am excited to attend the very first stage of the process in a Region that I am passionate about and I am looking forward to watching some good matches in Madagascar where Rugby is the number one sport. I am sure that the fans will enjoy being able to get up close and personal with the Webb Ellis Cup."
Meanwhile, the winner of the CAR Division IC Championship in Botswana on July 22-29 featuring Ivory Coast , Cameroon, Zambia, Mauritius, Nigeria and Botswana will progress to Division 1B in 2013 with the winner of that event promoted to Division 1A in 2014.
The runner-up from Division 1A in 2014 competition will have a second chance of making it to Rugby World Cup via the 2015 Repechage process and with South Africa automatic qualifiers via their position at New Zealand 2011 there is the possibility that Africa could have three representatives at Rugby World Cup 2015.
Africa is the third Region to begin the process towards the finals in England. North America and the Caribbean kicked off the process in March, followed by Asia in April. The global process involves 80 teams, 184 matches, around 3,000 players across six continents with eight places at RWC 2015 up for grabs. It gives an opportunity and a clear pathway for all IRB’s Member Unions to compete at the highest level as part of IRB’s ongoing vision to grow the Game throughout the world.
With planning and preparation advances as England looks ahead to hosting what promises to be the biggest Rugby World Cup ever in 2015, England Rugby 2015 Chief Executive Paul Vaughan said that the start of qualification in Africa was another milestone for delivery of the showcase event.
"It is fantastic to see another Region commence the qualification process. Africa is the third region competing for a place in 2015 which brings home the fact that Rugby World Cup 2015 is already underway. Namibia made a good account of themselves in New Zealand at Rugby World Cup 2011 and we look forward to seeing another strong African presence in England for the 2015 Tournament," added Vaughan.
Wednesday, July 4 2012
1300 SF1: Madagascar v Morocco
1500 SF2: Namibia v Senegal
Sunday, July 8 2012
1300: 3rd place play-off (Loser SF 1 v Loser SF 2)
1500: Final (Winner SF 1 v Winner SF 2)