Tag Archives: rugby union


Stuart Hardy


In this series, Stuart will explore the means of expanding the participation number of rugby union’s crown jewel. This series will explore why expansion is needed, which nations should join, how the new tournament will play out, and how the new structure can be implemented for following tournaments.

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2: The next 4 teams

This is where guesswork comes into the equation; if World Rugby follow the timing of the 2023 Rugby World Cup bids, they should announce the hosts of the 2027 tournament by November 2021. Currently, the bids in place are Australia, Argentina, and Russia…but with Argentina supposedly withdrawing their bid, and Russia being banned from hosting or competing in global sporting events until 2023, it currently looks like the tournament will, once again, be held Down Under.


As we still haven’t decided on the hosts, never mind the teams, we’re going to be using the teams that have already qualified for 2023, with a few extras to make up the numbers to reach 24 teams. Please bear with me, as a lot of this is guesswork, but it’s also hypothetical, so it’s all in the name of fun and progress. 

So far, the top 3 teams from each pool in the 2019 Rugby World Cup have automatically qualified. These include:

  • South Africa
  • New Zealand
  • England
  • Wales
  • Australia
  • Ireland (hooray!)
  • Argentina
  • France 
  • Scotland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Fiji

If they had not qualified already, France would have received automatic qualification, as the host nation.


To make up the remaining 8 teams for 2023, World Rugby have qualification tournaments in place. Some of these will be games scheduled during the designated international window by World Rugby. Others will form part of competitions that are already in place, such as the Rugby Europe Championship, and the Americas Rugby Championship.

The qualification process will have teams from the following regions. This is based on the qualification format for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, as the allocation for 2023 has yet to be confirmed:

  • 2 teams from the Americas
  • 2 from Oceania
  • 1 from Europe
  • 1 from Africa
  • The winner of a Play-Off between Europe 2 and Oceania 3
  • The winner of a Repechage tournament, consisting of
    • the Play-Off loser
    • Africa 2
    • Americas 3
    • and the winner of a play-off between Asia 1 and Oceania 4. 

For this new scenario, I would grant an extra team allocation to Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas, to bring the total up to 24. 

Now, while these qualification competitions won’t even start until 2021, I’ll be using the highest allocated teams from each region in the world rankings, at the conclusion of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The playoff winner will be the next team from either Europe or Oceania. The repechage winner will be the next highest ranked team from any global region. 

Therefore, my 12 remaining teams will be:

  1. USA (Americas 1)
  2. Uruguay (Americas 2)
  3. Canada (Americas 3)
  4. Tonga (Oceania 1)
  5. Samoa (Oceania 2)
  6. Georgia (Europe 1)
  7. Spain (Europe 2)
  8. Namibia (Africa 1)
  9. Kenya (Africa 2)
  10. Hong Kong (Asia 1)
  11. Romania (Play-off winner)
  12. Russia (Repechage winner)

OK, so now we have all our 24 teams. In this hypothetical scenario, 2 teams (Kenya and Hong Kong) will make their first appearance at the Rugby World Cup. That opens up a market of 47.6 and 7.4 million, respectively. Even just getting 20% of that is 11 million more people engaged in the sport we love.


So, we have our 24 teams, and we’re all set for the tournament to take place in (probably) Australia. But the addition of new teams means that the current format will have to change. Player safety is also of paramount importance, so we don’t want to increase the total number of games each team plays. In fact, we may want to decrease their individual playing time. On the other hand, we need to show that this format change is profitable, which usually means more matches to be sold for TV rights.

So, can we increase the number of total games played, while maintaining or decreasing the total number of games each team plays? We’ll discuss that in the next article…

Stuart also hosts Hard Line Rugby on YouTube, which focuses on rugby union in the Americas. Check it out & subscribe here!

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You can get the latest episode of our Irish Rugby Podcast here.

Rugby becoming all inclusive

by Michael Neal

Welcome to our new contributor Michael Neal. Follow @MikeN72 on Twitter.

In sport, especially rugby we try to be inclusive whether this be fans or players, from the smallest team to the largest teams.

A big part of this has been the introduction of mixed ability rugby with teams springing up across the world. These teams are all-inclusive, from players coming back to rugby who need to ease their way back in, new players who wish to give rugby a try(no pun intended), to players who have physical or mental disabilities and cannot take contact due to their conditions.

This is how I became involved in this form of rugby. I missed being on the pitch and being part of a team but due to a neurological condition, it meant I could not take heavy contact.

Having played this season, it is amazing to see the skills and commitment of the players.  There is a great camaraderie within the sport, from coaches, captain, senior players, we try to encourage those who are less confident or feel that they are less skilled and being part of a team environment, it is great to see these team mates, who would not be able to play rugby normally, grow in confidence, fitness, and become more outgoing both on and off the pitch, they are keen to learn and be involved.

Where they are unsure either in matches or training, by talking to them and running through drills slowly, they learn and sometimes are better than the team mates.

The games are played under normal rugby rules, with a couple of exceptions, scrums are uncontested, players who do not wish to take contact wear bibs and for them it is touch rugby. These players are not tackled and only have to touch opponents, once touched they go to ground as per a normal tackle and form a ruck but there is no contesting for the ball.

There is also a World Cup for mixed ability rugby teams, this was to be held this year in June, 24 teams from Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and as far away as Argentina, Spain, plus an IMART Barbarians team, an estimated 720 players competing over the 5 days, descending on Cork and hosted by Sunday’s Well RFC Rebels Rugby, under the IMART banner and supported by IRFU.

Unfortunately, due to the current situation this has now been postponed until 2021 but even in this situation, players are still supporting each other and working towards the goal of playing at the tournament next year.

We have been using Zoom and messaging services, to make sure that the most vulnerable players with in squads are doing ok and still included in the team ethos. This has included making videos, quizzes, and we are holding our end of season awards in the next week, which we have been voting for our player of the season etc.

It would be great to see in coming years, support for these teams from Pro14, Premiership clubs, etc plus the Unions, to drive this side of the game forward and make the game we love truly inclusive of all.

Below is one of my photos from our game against Cardiff at the Cardiff Blues Ground, on Remembrance Sunday, we are marking the 2 minutes silence.

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