European Path to the Rugby World Cup 2019 Explained

There is a lack of clarity regarding the European qualifying process for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Rugby Europe communicated the detailed qualification process for Europe to the various national federations on October 31st 2016. In this document it is made clear that, under certain circumstances, the results of matches between only 4 of the 6 teams involved in the 2017-18 REC may be taken into account for the direct qualification spot in Japan.

All of the nations involved in the Rugby Europe Championship between the Championship (6 Nations B) and Conference 2 are a part of the qualification process. The Development division, made up of Belarus, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Slovakia, do not have the opportunity to qualify. It is also worth noting that as of this season all divisions of the REC will work on an annual, rather than biannual, basis.
The first stage of the qualification process is the conference finals between the winners of the North and South regions of both Conference 1 and Conference 2. These will take place on the 20th May 2017. The winner of each of these matches will then face-off the following week, on the 27th May 2017. November then sees the victor in this game play against the winner of the 2016-17 Rugby Europe Trophy, which is the level below the Rugby Europe Championship.

This is where it gets complicated. For the Rugby Europe Championship teams, all results will be considered on a two year aggregate, excluding Georgia who have already qualified. This leaves five teams included in the World Cup qualifying table – Belgium, Germany, Romania, Russia and Spain – competing for the Europe 1 qualification spot. However if the team which finishes bottom of the 2017 REC loses to the winner of the 2017 Rugby Europe Trophy and subsequently gets relegated then their results will not count towards the final World Cup qualifying ranking table, leaving only four teams involved.

In addition to this, the team that comes second in the two year aggregated World Cup qualifying ranking will play against the winner of the Conferences vs Rugby Europe Trophy play-off game. The winner of this game advances to the Europe/Oceania play-off.
All of this of course means that, depending on match results, the relegation play-off could have a very important role in the eventual Europe 1 and Europe/Oceania play-off qualifiers. The removal of bonus-points earned at the expense of the last place and relegated team, for example, could easily change the make-up of the entire aggregated ranking table, ensuring every game is all important in the European race to Japan 2019.

Points system for all divisions:
4 points victory, 2 for a draw, 0 for a defeat
1 bonus point for 3 more trys than the opposition
1 bonus point for losing by 7 points or less
Qualification process at the World Cup in Europe:

Conference 2 2016-17:
North: Hungary, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Estonia
South: Slovenia, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Turkey
Final: Winner North vs Winner South, 20th May 2017

Conference 1 2016-17:
North: Czech Republic, Latvia, Luxembourg, Sweden, Lithuania
South: Malta, Croatia, Cyprus, Andorra, Israel
Final: Winner North vs Winner South, 20th May 2017

RE RWC Qualifier 2: Winner Conference 1 vs Winner Conference 2, May 27th 2017

Rugby Europe Trophy 2016-17:
Poland, Ukraine, Portugal, Moldova, Netherlands, Switzerland

RE RWC Qualifier 3: Winner RET 2016-17 vs Winner RE RWC Qualifier 2, November 2017

Rugby Europe Championship Ranking RWC 2017-2018:
Romania, Spain, Russia, Germany, Belgium or 4 of its teams
Winner qualifies for RWC 2019

RE RWC Qualifier 4: 2nd REC RWC Ranking vs Winner RE RWC Qualifier 3, April-May 2018

Europe-Oceania Play-Off: Winner RE RWC Qualifier 4 vs 3rd Pacific Tri Nations, June 2018

The winner of this game will qualify for the World Cup. The loser will participate in the repechage competition.