Favourites Namibia and Kenya beaten in opening matches

Shock results in African Rugby World Cup qualifying

The opening round of the Rugby Africa Cup, which is part of the Rugby World Cup 2023 qualifying process, produced two big upsets on Saturday.

Namibia, who have competed in every World Cup since 1999, lost 24-13 to the Ivory Coast while Senegal pipped Kenya 20-19 – a team more than 20 places higher in the World Rugby Rankings – with a late converted try.

It means both teams must win their second fixture to keep alive their hopes of making it to France 2023. Namibia play Madagascar on Wednesday while Kenya next play on Sunday, 11 July, against Zambia.

Both teams should win their matches comfortably – Madagascar are ranked 51st in the world and Zambia 66th. Then again, both would have been strong favourites in their opening fixtures as the highest ranked teams in the competition and they were on the wrong end of the scoreboard.

Namibia have not been helped by being without so many key players.

It certainly makes the competition interesting. This year’s Rugby Africa Cup sees 12 teams split into four pools:

Pool A – Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Namibia.

Pool B – Kenya, Senegal, Zambia.

Pool C – Algeria, Ghana, Uganda.

Pool D – Burkina Faso, Tunisia, Zimbabwe.

The Pool A and B matches are being played between 3 and 11 July while it’s 9-18 July for Pools C and D.

The top two sides in each pool will move into next year’s tournament, hence why a win in their second game is so crucial for Namibia and Kenya.

Rugby Africa Cup 2022 has a knockout format – quarter-finals, semi-finals and final – and will determine the Africa qualifier for the next World Cup.

The winner of that final in 2022 will go through to RWC 2023 as Africa One and join Pool A with New Zealand, France, Italy and Americas One. The runner-up will move into the Final Qualification Tournament.

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