The top rugby tournament of them all, the World Cup, will take place in Japan in two years time, but the complicated qualification process has already started. Twelve teams out of the final twenty that will take part in it enjoyed automatic qualification, while a further three have already been decided, but this means that five places remain up for grabs. So which sides have a decent chance of making it to the tournament in Japan?
In total, 79 sides split into the sections Africas, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania entered the qualification playoffs. The last of these has been completed, with Tonga and Fiji being the sides that secured World Cup places, while the United States became the first side to guarantee qualification from the Americas group when they defeated arch-rivals Canada.
Many considered Canada to be the firm favourites for this match, as they have a good record against the US, but the Eagles proved far too strong –winning by an impressive 52-16. Canada now face a two-leg play-off against Sudamerica rivals Uruguay to try and qualify. This is set to be an intriguing tie as both sides are relative powers within the Americas region – with Uruguay ranked third and Canada fourth.
Uruguay are also slightly higher in the world rankings, but it is Canada who have the more impressive World Cup record – with seven appearances, including a quarterfinal finish – compared with their opponents’ three. They will have to overcome the shock of their record thrashing by the United States if they are to make it to the tournament for an eighth time, however.
The Africa section of the qualifying process is still entirely up in the air, with six teams still in contention for a single qualifying spot. These six are Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Namibia are among the strongest of these teams, having competed in five previous World Cups, and they underlined that by winning a third successive Rugby Africa Gold Cup with a 46-7 thrashing of Kenya.
They must be considered the strong favourites to claim the qualifying place, but a dark horse contender for qualification is also emerging in the form of Tunisia – who have never made it to a World Cup before but knocked Senegal out of the running recently and moved up to fourth place in the standings. The Europe section still has six sides in contention, with three – Portugal, Russia and Romania – having previous World Cup experience, while Belgium, the Czech Republic and Germany are trying to qualify for the first time.
Russia, who have reached every final since 1987, are undoubtedly the favourites, but both Belgium and Germany have secured strong results that suggest they may spring a surprise and snatch the place instead.
If you are someone who likes betting on the Rugby World Cup via various gambling app at cherryrush.com, it is worth watching the qualifying rounds to see if any of the teams look good enough to dethrone the current holders New Zealand.