How the best women’s teams from across the globe can book their place at the tournament in New Zealand

2021 Rugby World Cup Qualifying Process

Nine countries have already qualified for the 2021 Rugby World Cup, but ten teams are still competing for the remaining three places.

The qualification process to decide the final places for New Zealand 2021 has been thrown up in the air by the pandemic and is one of the factors in the women’s tournament being postponed until 2022.

New Zealand, England, France, USA, Canada, Australia and Wales qualified after finishing in the top seven at RWC 2017. South Africa and Fiji booked their places by winning the Rugby Africa Cup and Oceania Rugby Championship respectively.

Other qualifying matches were all due to take place before the end of 2020, but that was not possible due to the postponement of competitions.

The RWC 2021 European qualifiers, which will feature Ireland, Italy, Scotland and the winner of the Rugby Europe Women’s Championship, have now been postponed twice with no news yet on when they will be held.

Spain have been able to book their place in that qualifying tournament after beating Russia 56-7 and the Netherlands 87-0 in February to win the Rugby Europe Women’s Championship.

With regards the qualifiers, a Rugby Europe statement said: “World Rugby and Rugby Europe continue to consult with unions and Six Nations Rugby Limited regarding a window that provides a fair opportunity to deliver the Europe qualifier, who will qualify directly for Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand. The runner-up will progress to the final qualification tournament to be held in 2021.”

There is also uncertainty in other parts of the world over when qualifiers will be played. The Asia Rugby Championship, which features Hong Kong, Japan and Kazakhstan, was due to take place in March, was postponed until May and then rescheduled for March 2021.

However, that was called off as well, with a World Rugby statement reading: “In light of ongoing Covid-19 travel and quarantine restrictions, Asia Rugby, in full consultation with the Hong Kong Rugby Union and participating unions, have taken the decision not to host the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship on 5, 9 and 13 March in Hong Kong as originally planned.

“Asia Rugby, participating unions and World Rugby continue to work closely to determine alternative hosting solutions.”

The winner of that tournament qualifies automatically for the World Cup, with the runner-up heading to the repêchage. However, with the window in which to fit qualifiers getting ever smaller, particularly when you consider that some 15s players will also be involved in sevens campaigns ahead of the Olympics, it is little surprise that the tournament has been postponed.

Related: Olympic preparations for sevens teams up in the air

Another outstanding fixture before the repêchage is the play-off between Colombia and Kenya.

One match that has taken place is the play-off between Samoa and Tonga to determine who would take part in the four-team repêchage tournament. Samoa were comfortable 40-0 winners in that fixture at Trusts Arena in New Zealand.

The postponement of RWC 2021 now gives organisers more time to arrange the remaining qualifiers.

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