World Rugby have confirmed that the draw for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France is still set to take place at the end of November this year.
The draw has been pencilled for the weekend of the 21/22 November in Paris but it was expected in many circles that it would be moved due to the fixture disruption as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Already, 12 nations have qualified for the 2023 Rugby World Cup – the top three teams from each of the four pools at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
What is most pertinent for all of the already qualified nations, however, is seeding.
The aim of the game is to get into Band 1 which contains the top four teams in the world based on the world rankings as of the time of the draw. For the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Ireland were ranked in the top-four in the world at the time of the draw which meant they avoided New Zealand, England and Australia.
This methodology will also apply for the upcoming draw at the end of November. However, for the northern hemisphere nations, there are still outstanding games in the 2020 Six Nations to be played while for the southern hemisphere nations, they have yet to play an international Test since the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
All of the already qualified nations will want an opportunity to improve their world rankings so they have an opportunity to become a top seed.
As it stands, World Rugby have yet to agree on a schedule for the end of the year which will include international Test matches for both the northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere nations.
It is widely reported that the English and French leagues are delaying confirmation of the schedule due to issues surrounding the release of players from clubs.
Despite the uncertainty, World Rugby have confirmed to Pundit Arena that as it stands, the draw will go ahead as planned but that the approach to the seedings and associated rankings “remains uncertain”.
“Recognising the fluid COVID-19 situation and ongoing 2020 international calendar discussions, it is too early to confirm the approach to the rankings in regards to the Rugby World Cup 2023 Draw,” a World Rugby spokesperson said.
“At this stage, the RWC 2023 Draw will take place [at the] end of November in Paris as planned.”
Currently, the top four nations according to the world rankings are South Africa, New Zealand, England and Ireland. France, Wales and Australia are all outside of the top-four.
One of the proposals to rectify the fixture uncertainty in 2020 is to base the seedings on the world rankings after the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Claude Atcher, the head of the 2023 World Cup organising committee, told AFP:
“Unless the Six Nations Tournament can be completed and the November tours can take place, the ranking on which the draw will be based will be that of the end of the 2019 World Cup.”
In this case, Ireland would drop out of the top four and as a result, would face either South Africa, New Zealand or Wales in the pool stages of the 2023 World Cup.
World Rugby’s methodology for determining the seedings should be confirmed once the schedule of the end of year internationals are set in stone.