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:
- Most Matchday points
- Winner of the head-to-head match between the tied teams
- Points difference (Points scored minutes points conceded)
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:
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.
Nickname: The Dragons
World Ranking: 22nd
World Cup Record:
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 RugbyWorldCup.com 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 RugbyWorldCup.com.
If you’re reading this from a country/region that’s not mentioned above you can stream it on RugbyWorldCup.com 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.