A Rugby Life

A Rugby Volunteer's Blog

The Road to Twickenham 2015–The journey begins


rwc_2015_qualifier_logoIt is easy to think of the next Rugby World Cup as being over three years away, but for dozens of rugby-playing nations around the world the competition has already started or is about to. There was some publicity about the game between Mexico and Jamaica back in March which was the very first game of the qualifying process but I’m particularly interested in the African section given my connections with Nigeria.

Getting to Twickenham in 2015 is no easy task for the 15 rugby-playing countries in Africa, with the exception of South Africa who qualify automatically. However there is a route to the finals available for even the lowest-ranked country which on the African continent happens to be Nigeria who are 91st out of 96 in the world. All 15 countries belong to the Confédération Africaine de Rugby (CAR) who have grouped them into three divisions (1a, 1b and 1c). These divisions have been in place for a number of years with promotion and relegation following annual tournaments placing the countries in their current positions.

The process for qualification is as follows:

  • The three divisions play tournaments in 2012 with the top teams in 1b and 1c being promoted and the bottom teams in 1a and 1b relegated
  • In 2013 the process is repeated
  • In 2014 it is repeated once more with the winner of Division 1a qualifying for the 2015 World Cup and the runner up going into the Répechage
  • Go to the 2015 Rugby World Cup website to see the African qualification process graphically and where there are links to all the other regions too

Just for these tournaments to go ahead is success in itself in a continent where the cost of travel for some these poverty-stricken nations is prohibitive and would be impossible for them to afford without grants from the IRB.

The 2012 Division 1a competition between Kenya, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe culminated last night with Zimbabwe beating Uganda at the Jemmel Stadium to become champions with hosts Tunisia relegated to Division 1b after losing to last year’s champions Kenya.  The games were streamed live on the internet by Tunisian TV and they were every bit as exciting as the Premiership or Super Rugby games and possibly more so for the passion they showed.  Uganda came from 22-6 down to score two late tries to get within four points, and in the final play the forwards drove over the Zimbabwean line only for the referee to judge that the ball had been held up and blow for full-time.

IMGP8518Having been to Uganda earlier this year I saw at first hand how the game is developing there and on this showing they must be one of the favourites to either qualify or go into the Répechage at the 2014 qualifying tournament.  However, the Uganda trip demonstrated the huge gulf between the Tier 1 and the Tier 3 nations with the mainly amateur England Counties XV comfortably winning both their games against a combined Ugandan and Kenyan team.

The Division 1b tournament was held in July in Madagascar, where Rugby is the national sport, and the hosts were competing against Morocco, Namibia, and Senegal. Madagascar (ranked 56 in the world) beat Namibia (21) 57-54 after extra time in an improbably high-scoring game and in front of a crowd of over 40,000 to get promoted to 1a, while relegated Morocco will play in 1c next season and are therefore the first African country to be left without a chance of qualification for RWC 2015.

Highlights of what was an incredibly exciting tournament are in the video below, along with more about rugby in Madagascar – it is worth watching.

The Division 1c tournament starts on 22 July in Gabarone, Botswana with six teams competing: Botswana, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mauritius, Nigeria and Zambia. I will be keeping a close eye on Nigeria’s results to see how their team fares with two-thirds of the players coming from the UK. This isn’t an ideal selection but a pragmatic one while the game develops in Nigeria, and the hope is that in time most if not all of the players are drawn from clubs there.

The winner of the tournament will get promoted to Division 1b where in 2013 they will compete for promotion to Division 1a and, if successful, will play a year later for a place in the 2015 World Cup finals. Nigeria play Mauritius, Cameroon and Botswana and with three good wins they could be on the road to Twickenham.

I will keep you posted.

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One response to “The Road to Twickenham 2015–The journey begins

  1. Pingback: Adopt a developing Nation – Follow Nigeria Rugby « A Rugby Life

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