The qualification process for RWC 2019 began in St Vincent and the Grenadines on 5 March, 2016 and involved 188 matches across 994 days. In total, 10,355 points were scored by the 71 teams who began with a dream of playing at the first tournament to be hosted in Asia but which only USA, Uruguay, Russia, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Namibia and Canada were able to realise.
We take a look back at events in 2018 to see how the final regional places were allocated.
Namibia qualified as Africa 1 for a sixth successive Rugby World Cup by winning the Rugby Africa Gold Cup 2018 in emphatic fashion. The Welwitschias scored more than 50 points in each of their games, including a record 118-0 win over Tunisia. Kenya still had claims on the title when the sides met in the final round in Windhoek, but 21 points from influential fly-half Cliven Loubser helped them to reach another half-century. The 53-28 win saw Namibia book their place in Pool B alongside New Zealand, South Africa, Italy and, at a later date, Canada.
Canada and Uruguay faced each other in the Americas 2 play-off to determine who would play Australia, Wales, Georgia and Fiji in Pool D at Japan 2019. The first leg in Vancouver ended with a convincing 38-29 victory for Los Teros but a much-improved Canada pushed the home side all the way in the return leg. A quickfire double from Andrés Vilaseca sealed their fate, however, with Uruguay winning 32-31 on the night and 70-60 overall to become the first qualifier of 2018 and join Americas 1 qualifiers USA at Japan 2019.
ASIA / OCEANIA
With hosts Japan already qualified, it was left to Hong Kong, Korea and Malaysia to battle it out for the Asia Rugby Championship title and a date with Oceania representatives the Cook Islands for the right to play in the repechage. Hong Kong scored 227 points and only conceded 44 in taking the Asian crown before beating the Cooks 77-3 across the two legs. However, defeats to Germany and then Canada in the repechage in France ended Hong Kong’s dream of appearing at a first Rugby World Cup.
EUROPE / OCEANIA
Points deductions for Romania and Spain for fielding ineligible players combined with their own results from the 2017 and 2018 editions of the Rugby Europe Championship resulted in Russia claiming the Europe 1 qualification berth and a place in Pool A. Germany, the continent’s next best team, could have joined them there after safely negotiating a play-off against Rugby Europe Trophy winners Portugal but beating Samoa, the third-ranked team in the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup behind Fiji and Tonga, in a home-and-away Europe/Oceania shootout, proved a step too far. Germany impressively beat top seeds Hong Kong in the repechage but defeat to Canada ended their hopes of a first Rugby World Cup appearance.
For more information on the RWC 2019 qualification process, visit www.rugbyworldcup.com/qualification.