- Top three from each pool in RWC 2015 to qualify automatically
- Japan to qualify automatically for home tournament
- Seven or eight teams to be determined via regional qualifiers
- Exciting new repechage tournament to deliver final qualifier
World Rugby has announced details of the qualification process principles for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.
Mirroring the format successfully delivered for England 2015 and New Zealand 2011, the top three teams in each pool of RWC 2015 will automatically qualify for Japan 2019, while a global qualification process will ensure that all World Rugby member unions will have the chance to qualify for rugby's showcase event.
In a departure from the current process following extensive evaluation including union high-performance needs, the World Rugby Executive Committee has agreed to the following variations:
- Regardless of where they finish at England 2015, Japan will automatically qualify as hosts
- Seven or eight places places will be confirmed via the regional qualification process that will kick off in 2016 (depending on Japan's final standing)
- A four-team repechage tournament will take place to determine the final qualification spot one year in advance of Japan 2019
- The new structure great for unions and promotes player welfare.
World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "Rugby World Cup continues to reach and inspire new audiences around the world and the qualification process across every continent is central to its appeal.
"While Japan has qualified for every Rugby World Cup and would be favourites to do so again for 2019, this decision gives certainty of preparation for the national team at their home tournament. Importantly, it also gives the organisers a great ability to promote rugby, excite the local market and build robust legacy in the run up to the first tournament in Asia.
"These other amendments to the process, including an exciting new four-team repechage tournament, will add further value to what is already one of the best-loved sporting tournaments in the world.”
JRFU Chairman Noriyuki Sakamoto said: "Japan 2019 will be the first-ever Rugby World Cup in Asia. The Japan Rugby Football Union will seek to work closely with World Rugby to ensure that it is a great tournament. We want to showcase the game in Asia and offer traveling supporters as well as all sports fans in Japan a wonderful rugby experience they will always remember.
"While World Rugby has revealed today that Japan will automatically qualify for the RWC 2019 as its host regardless the result of 2015, it is still our intention to be in the top three of the RWC 2015 pool and qualify by our own performance for the home tournament."
The move to a stand-alone four-team repechage tournament will drive further excitement and interest in the climax of the qualification process and with travel and rest time between matches addressed, it will also further enhance player welfare in this important process.
The qualification process for England 2015 was the largest and most competitive to date, reflecting the growth and development of the game worldwide with 83 national unions competing across a process of 203 matches between 2012 and 2014.
Further details of the regional process will be confirmed following the completion of Rugby World Cup 2015 when it will be known how many teams per region have automatically qualified courtesy of their pool placing. The timing and criteria for the Rugby World Cup 2019 pool allocation draw process will be confirmed after the completion of England 2015.