Tonga in the way of Manu Samoa World Cup quest

Tonga’s Ikale Tahi is the first obstacle in the way of the Manu Samoa as it looks to secure a spot at 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

The two teams are scheduled to lock horns in a home and away play-off in 2021, which will determine the direct qualifier from the Oceania for rugby’s ultimate showpiece.

A good performance during the last World Cup in Japan automatically secured Fiji’s spot in France. Other teams to have already qualified include world champions, South Africa, England, New Zealand, Wales, Japan, France (host), Australia, Ireland, Scotland, Italy and Argentina.

But the Manu Samoa’s one-win record in Japan last year relegated them to the fight for the remaining eight places in the tournament, to be determined by a process of regional and cross-regional qualifiers.

Manu Samoa had to go through a similar process of qualifying before Japan where they needed to beat Germany in Apia and in Germany as the final hurdle.

This time, the best scenario for the Manu Samoa is to win the Oceania play off against traditional Polynesian rivals, Tonga.

But if they lose, the Manu Samoa will still have one more chance although it means they will have to play the winner of the Asian Rugby Men’s Championship 2021.

The road to France for teams that have not already qualified was revealed by the World Rugby in a statement.

World Rugby Chairman, Sir Bill Beaumont, whom Samoa backed during the recent vote, said the “global qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2023 provides a beacon of excitement for all, including players and fans.

 “The process has been developed via full consultation with our regional associations and member unions will provide a genuine opportunity for full member unions to qualify for our showcase men’s 15s event,” Sir Beaumont is quoted as saying.

“Maximising existing regional competitions, the process is good for regions and unions in managing costs for organisers and participants alike, which is important as we all recover from the global pandemic.”

Rugby World Cup France 2023 Chief Executive Officer, Claude Atcher, said the qualification process has been designed to give emerging unions an opportunity to take part in rugby’s biggest competition.

 “The success of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan and performances by the host nation is a testimony of rugby’s expansion globally,” he said.

“As the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic is about to be won, I welcome this optimistic prospect of reconnecting with the excitement of our sport. This is the start of our journey towards France 2023, which will be the best tournament ever delivered.”

The Samoa Rugby Union announced last week that rugby activity in Samoa has been given the green light following close to three months of coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

The Union will have to find a new coach for the Manu Samoa, after Vaeluaga Steve Jackson, took up a job elsewhere following the team’s disappointing performance in Japan last year.                   

The dates for the qualification rounds have yet to be announced.

 RWC 2023 qualification principles:

  • Americas: the Americas will qualify two teams by September 2022. The third best team in the region will enter the Final Qualification Tournament – Americas 1 and Americas 2
  • Europe: the existing Rugby Europe Championship will have two qualifying places, with the two best teams in March 2022 qualifying directly and the third placed entering the Final Qualification Tournament – Europe 1 and Europe 2
  • Africa: the Rugby Africa Cup 2022 winner will qualify directly and the runner-up team will go to Final Qualification – Africa 1
  • Oceania: a home and away play-off between Tonga and Samoa in 2021 will determine the direct qualifier for the Oceania region. – Oceania 1
  • The loser will then play the Oceania Rugby Cup 2021 winner in the highest ranked team’s country with the eventual winner contesting Asia / Pacific (see below) as Oceania 2
  • Asia / Pacific: the winner of the Asian Rugby Men’s Championship 2021 will play Oceania 2 home and away. The winner on aggregate will determine the qualifier and the loser will go to Final Qualification – Asia / Pacific 1
  • Final Qualification Tournament: the tournament in November 2022 will feature four teams playing in a round-robin format with the winner qualifying for RWC 2023 – Final Qualification winner

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