Georgia have secured their place at Rugby World Cup 2023 after all remaining games involving Russia in the Rugby Europe Championship 2022 were abandoned following a decision by the Rugby World Cup Board on Wednesday.
The award of four match points to each of the teams set to play Russia (Georgia, Portugal and the Netherlands) means that the Lelos are now guaranteed a top-two finish in the region’s overall qualification table.
Taking results from the Rugby Europe Championship in 2021 and 2022 into account, Georgia cannot be overhauled as the first or second-ranked team and are still firm favourites to claim the Europe 1 spot at France 2023.
Georgia are therefore the 15th team to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2023, following in the footsteps of Samoa and Uruguay who secured their places via the regional qualification process in 2021.
The race for Europe 1
Georgia are unbeaten in the Championship, winning eight and drawing one, and have accrued 35 points – 10 more than Spain who are in second place with two games also left to play.
Portugal are level on points with Spain but are third because they have played a game more. Romania are fourth on 22 points and still in the running for either Europe 2 or a place in the Final Qualification Tournament awarded to the third-placed team.
The Lelos only need one point from their remaining games, against Romania in Bucharest this weekend and against Spain in Tbilisi eight days later, to be mathematically certain of top spot.
However, if this season’s title frontrunners Spain fail to beat Portugal with a bonus point in Madrid on Saturday, Georgia will be Europe 1 regardless of how they fare in their final two fixtures.
Europe 1 will compete in Pool C at next year’s tournament with games against Wales, Australia and Fiji – all familiar opponents in recent years – and the Final Qualification Tournament winner.
If Georgia give up their commanding lead at the top of the qualification table and go to France as Europe 2, they will be placed in Pool B with South Africa, Ireland, Scotland and Asia/Pacific 1.
The Lelos have competed at every Rugby World Cup since their first appearance on the game’s greatest stage in Australia in 2003 and will be looking to put in a strong performance in France, where many of their players are based.
Georgia achieved a best-ever third-place pool finish at England 2015 but only won one game at the last tournament in Japan.