Thursday Thoughts on a Friday

Some thoughts on the latest patch of November internationals.

  • Ireland
    • When asked if this was a case of peaking too early for the World Cup, Rob Kearney made the point that this was different, because Ireland had more than one system of play and we’re able to vary things depending on the opponent. This was a good point, as good as Ireland were during the 2018 Six Nations and November Internationals, by 2019 we had been figured out. As soon as the momentum of the winning streak broke that was that. Although it’s probably not wise to read this victory as Ireland being favourites for their World Cup Pool, it is momentum for next September.
    • The fly-half position is still an issue, which is a strange thing to say considering we arguably have the best one in the World. Carbery didn’t come on until there were about 5 minutes left, and that was through injury. He needs a big game against Fiji now to really cement himself as the rightful heir, as he had been years ago.
      • I will right about this more, but injuries aside, Carbery hasn’t been helped by being labelled the second-coming in such a high-profile way at such a young age.
      • It’s a shame Ciarán Frawley picked up an injury against All-Blacks XV. He’s been making a case to be Leinster’s number 2 over Ross Byrne, and Fiji would have given him the chance to make a big case for Sexton’s replacement.
    • Who would you rather Ireland face in a World Cup Quarter-Final? That’s presuming we get that far and don’t slip up against Scotland, Romania, or Tonga. The Quarter-Finals will se Ireland face either the winners or runners-up of Pool A. It’s beyond likely that these two places will be taken by New Zealand and France, unless Italy can do the unthinkable, or Uruguay and Namibia can do the completely unimaginable. I’d argue New Zealand are the better option. The Quarter-Finals is a hurdle Ireland have found un-jump-overable, so it’s better to play the opponents we’ve recently got a handle on then a France team that are at home, and look like they’ve finally got past the tag of ‘consistently inconsistent’.
      • In the interest of getting way to far ahead of ourselves, if Ireland top the group a maiden semi-final would be against the winner of pool C or runner-up of pool D. If Ireland come 2nd it will be the inverse, winner of pool D or runner-up of pool C. Pool D offer what appear to be more difficult options with three top tier nations in England, Japan, and the toughest pot 3 side Argentina, along with Samoa and Chile. It’s hard to pick which two get through here, but for what it’s worth England have their most difficult two games first, against Argentina and Japan, so could be virtually through or eliminated by 17th September. Argentina probably have the more favourable run of starting against an England side they’ve just beaten, then having a week off, and having Japan on the last round. Pool C can be considered the ‘pool of life’ as in contrast to the pool of death. Wales and Australia are joined by Fiji, Georgia, and the yet to be confirmed final-qualification winner. Fiji and Georgia will be eyeing up a huge shock. Wales have had a habit of finding form just at the right time for a World Cup though, but Australia have a habit of being in the latter stages. Two intriguing groups for slightly different reasons.
  • World Cup Qualifiers
    • Speaking of the World Cup, The final qualification tournament kicked off last weekend. USA and Kenya faced off last week with the US winning comfortably. Portugal got their first ever win against Hong Kong.
      • I said last week it will likely come down to that final game against Portugal and the USA, and that’s even more likely now. Hong Kong have been starved of gametime and Kenya are too far behind.
      • Next up is USA vs Hong Kong, and Portugal vs Kenya. We’ll probably get the same pair of results again, with Hong Kong the more likely to pull off an upset.
      • As for the two favourites, USA missing out would be a huge blow to the game over there with them se to host the tournament in 2031. Portugal have been consistently improving so this is a big chance for them.
    • Other Internationals
      • Ireland’s Pool Opponents
        • South Africa really suffered from not having a solid reliable placekicker on Saturday.
        • Scotland avoided a potential banana skin against Fiji. They may well relish being overlooked in Pool B.
        • Tonga were very comfortable against Spain in a game that saw them welcome a few players that changed allegiance. They built up the score late in the game with 19 of their 40points coming in the last 10 minutes.
        • Romania edged out Chile thanks largely to a good start. They weren’t overly convincing against the World Cup debutants to be.
    • Elsewhere
      • Argentina have picked up a few huge wins in recent years, and beating England gives them a mental edge ahead of their World Cup Pool opponents.
      • Georgia were comfortable enough against a Uruguay side that is ever improving. That bodes well for the Rugby Europe Champions heading into a World Cup where their aim will be to finish in the top 3 of their pool for the second time.
      • Italy put down a big marker against the Pacific Nations Cup Champions. For them it’s really about justifying their place in the top tier, particularly after losing to Georgia over the Summer.

Your Guide To Final Qualification Tournament For The Rugby World Cup

19 Teams have qualified for the 2023 Rugby World Cup so far. 12 Of them made it in by finishing in the top three of their pools during the last World Cup, a further seven made it in through various regional qualifiers. One place remains with the 20th team to be determined by the final-qualification tournament. This tournament will involve Portugal, USA, Kenya, & Hong Kong. It will all happen in Dubai.

How it Works

It’s a round-robin tournament. It’s the same process as the final qualification tournament for 2019. Each team plays each other once in a neutral venue. The match points are awarded in the same way as most tournaments (4 for a win, 2 for a draw, 0 for a loss). As for bonus points it’s going to be the system used by the Six Nations and Rugby Championship, a try bonus point for scoring 4 or more tries, and a losing bonus point for losing by 7 or less points. The competition takes place between the 6th November and 18th November. Only the team that finishes first will qualify.

It’s not clearly stated what tie-breaking criteria will be applied on the official World Cup website. However, it is likely to be the same as the tie-breaking criteria for the World Cup itself which is:

  1. Most Matchday points
  2. Winner of the head-to-head match between the tied teams
  3. Points difference (Points scored minutes points conceded)

The Teams


Nickname: Os Lobos

World Ranking: 20th

World Cup Record:
Pool Stage in 2007

Portugal were the first team to qualify for the tournament, doing so as Europe 3 by finishing 3rd on the Rugby Europe Championship. Having originally missed out by finishing 4th, they were moved up to 3rd when Spain, who had finished second, were deducted points for fielding an ineligible players.
The Rugby Europe Championship took place between 2021 and 2022. Every team played each other twice (although Russia’s last three games were cancelled with their opponents being awarded the win). Portugal finished on 26 points, with 5 wins and a draw.


Nickname: The Eagles

World Ranking: 19th

World Cup Record:
Pool Stage in 1987, 1991, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019

USA played in the revamped Americas qualifiers. They beat Canada over two legs in the North America section, before losing to Uruguay over to legs in the Americas 1 qualifier. They then played in the Americas 2 qualifier against Chile where they lost over two legs.
USA enter the qualification tournament as Americas 3. If they don’t qualify it would be the firs time no North America side is represented in the World Cup.


Nickname: The Simbas

World Ranking: 33rd

World Cup Record:
Never qualified

In recent World Cup qualifiers Kenya have been the second best team after Africa. The African qualifiers involved a preliminary round before the second round had groups of three teams with the top two qualifying. Kenya finished second in their group having lost to Senegal before beating Zambia.

The next round was a 8-team knockout tournament which saw Kenya beat Uganda and Algeria before losing the final to Namibia 36-0. That tournament took place in France. It is a tournament that will be looked on disappointingly by Kenyan rugby with a loss to Senegal, only beating Algeria narrowly, and then getting hammered by Namibia.

Hong Kong

Nickname: The Dragons

World Ranking: 22nd

World Cup Record:
Never Qualified

Hong Kong had to do the least to qualify for this tournament. They hadn’t played a game in three years before the final of the revamped Asia Rugby Championship came along.
They narrowly beat out South Korea in the final by a score of 21-23. This meant the went to the Asia/Pacific play-off where the lost to Tonga 44-22 in the first meeting between the sides. So they have only had two qualifier games.


Times in Irish Time

Round 1 – Sunday 6th November
USA vs Kenya – 12:00
Portugal vs Hong Kong – 14:30

Round 2 – Saturday 12th November
Portugal vs Kenya – 12:00
USA vs Hong Kong – 14:30

Round 3 – Friday 18th November
Hong Kong vs Kenya – 13:00
USA vs Portugal – 15:30

All games are scheduled to take place at The Sevens, Dubai.

Where to Watch

If you’re in Ireland you can stream the games on on this page!

The games are shown on various channels around USA/Canada, Portugal, Sub-Saharan Africa, Hong Kong & Asia, as well as Latin America, Netherlands, and Georgia. If you are in these countries or regions you can find the info for where to watch on

If you’re reading this from a country/region that’s not mentioned above you can stream it on too at the same link as above!

Thoughts on the Tournament

It would be great to see an expanded World Cup in which these teams have already qualified and we are looking at a tournament with 4 different sides trying to get a 24th World Cup place. Regardless, this is a big tournament for these 4 teams which sees them play their biggest games in the World Cup cycle.

The favourites are USA and Portugal with the fixture list suggesting this is common knowledge. The final game will see a showdown between the sides with both expected to beat the other two teams.

Portugal have a big chance to make their second ever World Cup and put down a real marker in what has been a progressive few years in the Rugby championship. With USA hosting the World Cup in 2031 it would be a disaster if they were to miss out. The game has grown over there with Major League Rugby but if they were to miss out on the show piece for only the second time that would be a major setback.

As for Hong Kong and Kenya it would take something very special. Hong Kong have had limited game time and come into this tournament with little preparation. Kenya have been close to qualifying through the Africa Cup before but have always missed out. It would be a Rugby World Cup miracle if either of these teams were team number 20.

The winner of the tournament will join Wales, Australia, Fiji, and Georgia in Pool C.