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 It is four-years until the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, the first Asian venue for the quadrennial event. The qualifications have changed and it will be helpful to review the new format.

Of prime interest to the USA is that again, as in the past, there will be two nations chosen from the Americas. Initially, there will be a two-match result of Canada versus the United States, winner determined by aggregate points. The loser will play a South American qualifier (probably, again, Uruguay) in a home and away affair where aggregate points determine the winner.

In the possibility that the USA should lose both of these qualification events, a final, four-nation repechage will offer one, last opportunity to make it to Japan.

A new wrinkle stemming from 2015 RWC placement is that the four, third place pool teams all qualified for 2019. The list includes England, Japan, Georgia, and Italy.

So, the competitive battle for qualifications effects the three South Pacific nations of Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga since all failed to establish a third place pool finish. The new format will allow two of these three to go forward from an Oceania tournament. The third place finisher will meet the European fifteen that placed second in the Rugby Europe Championship.

With Georgia already qualified, the European representative will be Romania or Russia, unless Spain or Portugal can improve significantly.

Africa will probably witness a return of Namibia, the best of the Kenya, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe trio.

Finally, World Rugby learned the harsh lesson that a premature calendar slotting of teams in the four pools might repeat the disastrous 2015 Australia, England, Wales, and Fiji arrangement where four of the top ten ranked squads competed in the same pool.



"A new wrinkle stemming from 2015 RWC placement is that the four, third place pool teams all qualified for 2019." This is not "new". This is the third consecutive time that finishing third in a pool has meant direct qualification for the next tournament. I also don't think that Spain needs "significant" improvement to challenge Russia. They've swapped 3rd and 4th place in the last two seasons of the European Nations Cup, with Spain dominating their most recent encounter, 43-20. To be sure, that was in Madrid, but I don't see much reason to think that Russia has much of an inside track at the moment.
Yes, corrected. And thanks.
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