The road to Rugby World Cup 2015 will kick off in Mexico City as the host nation takes on Jamaica in the very first qualifying match for the next edition of the game’s pinnacle tournament.
With still three and a half years to go before the top 20 teams in the world do battle to lift the Webb Ellis Cup, two of the Game’s emerging nations will kick off the process, eager to take their chance to compete against the very best in front of a global audience of billions at RWC 2015.
And with the IRB’s ongoing commitment to grow the Game around the world that opportunity is possible. The route towards qualification for Rugby World Cup 2015 follows the successful system employed for the 2011 tournament. It is a clear, results-based pathway that utilises existing tournament structures across all six IRB Regions that ensures the best 20 national teams are the ones who thrill us all on Rugby’s biggest stage. It also means that every country, no matter where it sits on the IRB World Rankings, has the opportunity to break through to that level. In all, 80 Unions will start a process towards representation in England.
Mexico, which is still undergoing a ranking qualification process after becoming a Full Member of the IRB as recently as 2006, and Jamaica (currently ranked 83rd in the world), can make it all the way to England for Rugby World Cup 2015 but with only eight qualification spots up for grabs, they would have to beat some impressive teams to do it. Their head-to-head takes place in the Mexican capital on March 24.
The match will be refereed by Craig Joubert, who took charge of the Rugby World Cup 2011 Final. While in Mexico, Joubert will also take time to conduct a workshop for local referees.
“Rugby continues to go from strength to strength and global participation levels have grown by 18 per cent since Rugby World Cup 2007, driven by the commercial success of Rugby World Cup,” said RWCL Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
“The IRB is committed to growing the Game beyond its traditional heartlands into new Rugby markets and to increasing global participation rates even further.”
“We have made huge progress over the past decade and, guided by a new 10-year strategic plan, Rugby is perfectly positioned to reach out to more men, women and children around the world. Rugby World Cup is the Game’s showpiece, its pinnacle and its flagship tournament. As such, it is right that every Member Union has the opportunity to play in it.”
“The pathway we provide towards that goal gives all ambitious Unions – no matter how competitive they are today – a clear understanding of what needs to happen to make that dream a reality for tomorrow,” he said.
So whether it’s Mexico v Jamaica in Mexico City, Senegal v Morocco in Madagascar, Philippines v Sri Lanka in Manila or Colombia v Venezuela in Caracas, 2012 is an important year for Rugby’s emerging nations and each team will have set its own goals. For some, nothing less than qualification will suffice while for others, a good showing in their particular region will represent real progress, whereas some newer Rugby nations will simply see this as an opportunity to benchmark their progress against similarly ranked sides in the world.
In total, the Rugby World Cup qualifying process features 80 nations. The qualifiers comprise some 184 matches, made up of around 3,000 players across six continents, including the strategic markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China as well as USA and Mexico.
Rugby participation has increased by 18 per cent since RWC 2007 owing to IRB investment that comes from RWC finances, the positive effect of being included in the programme for the Olympic Games 2016 and the global reach of the Game’s flagship tournament.
RWC provides an international stage to promote Rugby and generates 95 per cent of the revenue the IRB invests in achieving its strategic goals, including growing the global Game. Therefore the success of the tournament is vital for achieving the IRB strategic goals.
England was awarded RWC 2015 as it offers a mature Rugby market which is likely to generate strong spectator numbers and significant financial returns. Large iconic venues, an experienced Host Union, the UK major event infrastructure and a prime commercial Rugby market provide an ideal platform to host the Rugby World Cup. This tournament also offers an important opportunity to continue the development of RWC tournament planning and delivery models and opportunities to grow the game in England and Europe.
Looking further ahead, growing the Game is a key consideration for RWC 2019 in Japan. Asia is a critical market for future growth and Japan is the traditional leader of Rugby in Asia. The JRFU has made significant professional developments in recent years and is well-placed to host such an important event.
A successful tournament in Japan has the potential to generate significant interest in the Game in Asia and ignite a lucrative commercial Rugby market. With 60 per cent of the global population and 80 per cent of the world’s youth living in Asia, this interest could have a considerable impact on the development of global Rugby. Awarding RWC 2019 to Japan 10 years prior to delivery provides an adequate time scale, if used properly, to prepare the framework to host the tournament in a developing market.
The scale of RWC and the importance of using RWC tournaments to achieve wider strategic goals of key stakeholders demand a clear strategic approach for each tournament. These must integrate the IRB goals with those of other key stakeholders, providing a framework for decision making and measuring success.