Rugby World Cup 2023 Final Qualification Tournament ready for kick-off in Dubai
Four teams will begin their quest for the last remaining ticket to France on Sunday when the Rugby World Cup 2023 Final Qualification Tournament gets underway in Dubai.
Hong Kong, Kenya, Portugal and the USA all hope to take a step towards qualification for the showpiece tournament on match day one at The Sevens Stadium.
Whoever finishes top of the standings at the end of the round robin tournament on 18 November will secure their place as the 20th team to compete at RWC 2023. The ultimate prize is a place in Pool C in France, alongside Wales, Australia, Fiji and Georgia.
You can watch the Final Qualification Tournament on The Rugby Network in the USA and Canada, on Sport TV in Portugal and SuperSport in Sub-Saharan Africa. Fans in other countries or regions can stream the matches live via RugbyWorldCup.com/2023.
USA, Kenya head into unknown
The Final Qualification Tournament will get underway at 16:00 local time (GMT+4) on Sunday with a first ever test meeting between the USA and Kenya.
Ahead of kick-off, the USA are the highest competing nation in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini, at 19th, while Kenya are the lowest at 33rd.
The Eagles also have the most Rugby World Cup pedigree having qualified for every tournament bar RWC 1995, and this tournament represents their third chance to book a ticket to France.
Gary Gold’s squad warmed up for the Final Qualification Tournament with a training camp in South Africa, which included friendlies against the Cheetahs and Pumas.
That group has since been supplemented by six Europe-based players, including captain and fly-half AJ MacGinty and they will be keen to start their campaign with a win.
For Kenya, this will be their first match against a top-20 ranked team since a 31-10 defeat to Russia in November, 2017.
However, they arrive in Dubai in fairly decent form having lost only two of their previous six matches, both to Namibia, and will want to improve on their performance at the RWC 2019 repechage tournament.
In Marseille four years ago, Kenya’s hopes of securing a place at the showpiece tournament in Japan were ended as they lost to Canada, Hong Kong and Germany.
Portugal, Hong Kong eye opening win
Portugal and Hong Kong will get their Final Qualification Tournament campaigns underway at 18:30 local time (GMT+4) at The Sevens Stadium.
The teams have only met once before in a test match, Hong Kong winning 13-6 at Hong Kong Football Club in November, 2015.
A second victory for Hong Kong in the fixture would lift them into the top 20 in the rankings, however, it is Portugal who head into the match as favourites.
That is because of an encouraging couple of years in which they have moved up the rankings and hopes of a second appearance at Rugby World Cup have been raised.
Portugal’s sole appearance came at RWC 2007, also staged in France, when they were beaten comfortably by Scotland, New Zealand and Italy before narrowly missing out on a maiden win against Romania, losing 14-10.
Hong Kong first entered Rugby World Cup qualification ahead of RWC 1995 but have yet to appear at the showpiece tournament.
They competed at the RWC 2019 repechage tournament in Marseille four years ago but won only one match – a 42-17 victory against Kenya.
Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team has taken to the pitch only four times since RWC 2019 but that has not dampened their hopes of making history.