Rugby World Cup 2023 draw to take place three years before the tournament starts
The draw for the Rugby World Cup pool stage will be based on the world rankings following this year’s autumn internationals, nearly three years before the tournament gets underway, putting a premium on the Six Nations, summer tests, and Rugby Championship ahead of France 2023.
Twelve teams have already qualified for the next World Cup by virtue of finishing in the top three of their pool in Japan last year, meaning the likes of England, Wales, New Zealand and world champions South Africa already know their place in the draw is secured.
Joining them will be the rest of the quarter-finalists in Ireland, Japan, Australia and France, as well as the third-place teams that are made up of Scotland, Italy, Argentina and Fiji, with eight further teams due to qualify over the next three years.
But with World Rugby confirmed on Wednesday that the draw will take place following the November international window that ends on the weekend of 21-22 November 2020, nations will have to rely on strong performances across the next 10 months to ensure they give themselves the best chance of a favorable draw.
The seedlings are allocated based on the World Rugby rankings, which at present would put the Springboks, All Blacks, England and Wales into the top band, with Ireland Australia, France and Japan making up band two. Although securing a place in the top four teams remains important, the emergence of Japan has meant that there is no longer a daunting group of death, given that those eight teams face a 50 percent chance of facing one of Scotland or Argentina as well as one of the 2019 quarter-finalists.
The early draw does however leave time for the rankings to change drastically over the course of the next three years, allowing those lower down the rankings such as France, Japan, Scotland and Fiji to force their way towards the top, raising the potential for a group to emerge with two or even three sides ranked in the top four in the world.
World Rugby explained the early draw – the date and location of which will be announced in the coming weeks – is to allow ticket sales to commence from early next year in an effort to allow the France 2023 organizing committee to drum up interest before the release of Olympic tickets ahead of Paris 2024. Given how many tickets were still available for Japan 2019 due to the impact of the Tokyo 2020 Games, this is one way that World Rugby has learned from their experience in the Far East last year.
“The pool draw is an important milestone on the road to Rugby World Cup 2023 in France as it really drives excitement and momentum both in the host nation and throughout the global rugby family – it is the moment teams and fans can start to plan,” said World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont.
“With planning and preparation for France 2023 gathering momentum, Paris will provide the perfect setting for what promises to be a fascinating Rugby World Cup 2023 pool draw.”
The announcement leaves the leading European teams their five Six Nations matches plus summer tours and autumn internationals to affect their ranking. For England, they will embark on a two-Test tour of Japan in the summer, followed by November games against New Zealand and Argentina, but the final test against Australia on 28 November falls outside of the regulated window and thus will not count towards the world rankings utilized for the draw, giving Eddie Jones’s side just nine games towards their positioning.
In contrast, Wales will have two more tests – one each in the summer and autumn – but three of those will come against the All Blacks, with their additional non-Six Nations games coming against Japan, Fiji and Argentina. Scotland faces a rather daunting schedule in facing the Springboks and All Blacks twice on top of Argentina and Japan – the side who knocked them out of the recent World Cup – while Ireland will face the Wallabies three consecutive times before taking on South Africa and Japan.