Find out how the winners are decided in the knockout stages if the scores are level after 80 minutes

What Happens If There’s A Draw At The Rugby World Cup?

During the pool stages of the Rugby World Cup, if a match is drawn both teams are awarded two points – three if they also score four tries. However, in the knockout matches there must be a winner to determine who advances to the next stage of the tournament.

Related: Rugby World Cup bonus points explained

If the scores are level after 80 minutes in a knockout match, the following procedure applies to determine a winner:

A. Extra-time of ten minutes each way (with an interval of five minutes).

Jonny Wilkinson’s famous drop-goal in the RWC 2003 final came in extra-time…

B. If scores are still tied after normal extra-time, there will be ‘sudden death’. This period lasts a maximum of ten minutes and the first team to score any points – penalty, try, drop-goal – will be declared the winner.

C. If scores are still tied after sudden death, there will be a kicking competition. This is the format for that:

  • Five players who were on the field at the completion of the sudden death period will be nominated to take part in the place-kicking competition.
  • They have to kick from three areas on the 22m line – directly in front of the posts, on the 15m line to the left of the posts and on the 15m line to the right of the posts.

    draw at Rugby World Cup

    Line up: The different positions for the goalkicking competition (World Rugby)

  • A player from each team takes it in turns to kick, moving between the different positions, and the winner is the team with the most successful kicks after five attempts.
  • The order and positions of kickers is as follows:
  • Kicker 1 from each team, from position 1
  • Kicker 2 from each team, from position 2
  • Kicker 3 from each team, from position 3
  • Kicker 4 from each team, from position 1
  • Kicker 5 from each team, from position 2
  • If there are an equal number of successful kicks after five attempts, the competition moves into a sudden death basis until one team has more successful kicks than the other from the same number of attempts – just like a penalty shootout in football.

Related: Penalty shootout to decide Cardiff Blues v Leicester

If a knockout match cannot be played on the assigned date – a possibility given the typhoons and heavy rain in Japan at this time of year as well as the regularity of earthquakes in the country – there is a two-day window to reschedule the game.

draw at Rugby World Cup

Strong weather: Damage caused by Typhoon Faxai in Ichihara in September (Getty Images)

However, if the match cannot be played in that time period and is cancelled there is a process in place to determine the winner without a ball being kicked. The sequential criteria to decide the victor is as follows:

  1. The team with the most match points from the pool phase (applicable in quarter-finals and semi-finals).
  2. The team which has the best points difference in all their tournament matches.
  3. The team which has the best difference between tries for and tries against in all their tournament matches.
  4. The team which has scored most points in all their tournament matches.
  5. The team which has scored most tries in all their tournament matches.
  6. Where all criteria above are not able to determine a winner, the team that is higher ranked in the official World Rugby Rankings at the time the match is scheduled to be played.

If the World Cup final is cancelled and criteria two to five cannot determine a winner, the two teams will be declared joint winners.

draw at Rugby World Cup

Wet wet wet: There was heavy rain during the Italy v Namibia match (Getty Images)

The other possibility to consider is matches being abandoned. If a knockout match starts but is stopped at half-time or at any point in the second half and cannot be finished on the same day, the score at the time of abandonment will be considered the final score.

If that score is a tie, the following sequential criteria apply:

  1. The team which scored most tries in the match.
  2. The team with the most match points from the pool phase.
  3. The team which has the best points difference in all their tournament matches.
  4. The team which has the best difference between tries for and tries against in all their tournament matches.
  5. The team which has scored most points in all their tournament matches.
  6. The team which has scored most tries in all their tournament matches.
  7. Where all criteria above are not able to determine a winner, the team that is higher ranked in the official World Rugby Rankings at the time the match is scheduled to be played.

Again, if the final is abandoned and criteria one to six cannot determine a winner, the two teams will be declared joint winners.

If a knockout match has to be abandoned at any time during the first half, the match shall be played again in full within two days at the same venue or, if required, an alternate venue.

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