How the bonus points system works at the 2023 Rugby World Cup

Bonus points have been part of the Rugby World Cup ecosystem since Australia 2003.

For longer-term fans, they are now part of the tournament furniture, but for anyone relatively new to the game, especially those who – for example – watch French rugby where the bonus point system is different, here’s a little explainer.

Does the Rugby World Cup have bonus points?

Short answer: Yes. Yes, it does.

Long answer. Bonus points were introduced to the Rugby World Cup at the 2003 tournament in Australia. Ever since teams have been awarded points for a win, and extra points for scoring a minimum number of tries, or for losing by a narrow margin.

  • Four points are awarded for a win.
  • Two points are awarded for a draw.
  • A try bonus point is awarded to teams that score four or more tries in a match.
  • A losing bonus point is awarded to teams that lose a match by seven or fewer points.

There are incentives to score as many points as possible in each match, as a number of factors decide pool placings – and, therefore, potential qualification. 

The maximum number of match points a winning team can be awarded is five, with the additional point coming for scoring four or more tries.

Meanwhile, teams can pick up two potentially crucial points in defeat, if they score four tries and finish within seven points on the scoreline.

Pool phase standings

At the end of the pool stages, if two teams are level on points the following criteria determine their final standings:

  • The winner of the match between two tied teams is ranked higher.
  • The team with the best points difference in the pool stages is ranked higher.
  • The team with the best difference between tries scored and tries conceded in the pool stages is ranked higher.
  • The team which has scored the most points in the pool stages is ranked higher.
  • The team which has scored the most tries in the pool stages is ranked higher.
  • Should the teams still remain level after steps 1-5, official World Rugby Rankings on a set date will determine the higher ranked team.

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Knockout phase

Unsurprisingly, bonus points are not awarded in the knockout stages of the competition. If the scores are level after the referee signals full-time from the quarter-finals onwards, the following procedure determines a winner:

  • Extra-time of ten minutes each way (with an interval of five minutes);
  • If scores are still tied after normal extra-time, there will be ‘sudden death’. This period lasts a maximum 10 minutes and the first team to score any points will be declared the winner.
  • If scores are still tied after extra-time and sudden death, there will be a kicking competition. This operates as follows:

Five players on the field at the completion of the sudden-death period will be nominated to take part in the place-kicking competition, where 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.

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A player from each team takes it in turns to kick, moving between the different positions. The winner is the team with the most successful kicks after five attempts.

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.

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