By Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE’S pathway to the next Rugby World Cup (RWC) has been made clear with the World Rugby on Monday announcing the qualification process for RWC 2023, set to be hosted in France.
Twelve teams have already qualified for RWC 2023 by placing in the top 3 of their respective pools in the 2019 competition.
These 12 teams include reigning world champions South Africa, England, New Zealand, Wales, Japan, France, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Italy, Argentina and Fiji.
The Zimbabwe Sables are amongst eight teams that will attempt to qualify through a qualification process that World Rugby says has been designed, “to deliver the top teams in the world to rugby’s showcase tournament, while promoting a genuine opportunity for all unions”.
Of the eight teams, one is from Oceania, one Asia/Pacific, one Africa, two Americas, two Europe, and one from a final repechage qualification tournament.
In order for the Sables to qualify, they must win the 2022 Rugby Africa Cup which will act as the final qualifying tournament to select one of the teams that will join reigning World champions South Africa as Africa’s two representatives in the global showpiece in France.
Only the top team will automatically qualify for the tournament while the runner-up will have another chance at a repechage tournament against teams from other continents.
Zimbabwe have made two Rugby World Cup appearances – in 1987 and 1991 but have struggled to make a return to the global showpiece event since then.
In more recent years, the Namibia national rugby union team has generally defeated Zimbabwe in African qualifying rounds.
The Sables will however be hopeful of qualifying for the 2023 tournament under the mentorship of former national team captain Brendan Dawson who is in his second stint as head coach.
In his previous stint Dawson led Zimbabwe within just a bonus point of qualifying for the 2015 World Cup held in England.
Meanwhile World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “With the global pandemic having halted most rugby activity, confirmation of the global qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2023 provides a beacon of excitement for all, including players and fans.
“The process that has been developed via full consultation with our regional associations and member unions will provide a genuine opportunity for full member unions to qualify for our showcase men’s 15s event.
“Maximising existing regional competitions, the process is good for regions and unions in managing costs for organisers and participants alike, which is important as we all recover from the global pandemic.”
Full dates of qualifying matches and tournament formats will be announced by World Rugby in the future.
World Rugby have also not yet confirmed the dates for the various competitions and events in 2021, and say “all will be subject to an anticipated easing of the Covid-19 situation”.