World Rugby has confirmed the details of the regional qualification process for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
This year's World Cup drew a huge following, and World Rugby has responded by designing a qualification process to ensure the top 20 teams feature at the next global event.
With 12 World Cup teams having secured their place at the next tournament by finishing in the top three of their respective pools, the remaining eight places will be determined by a process of regional and cross-regional qualifiers, which will begin in 2016. While for the first time, a stand-alone round-robin repêchage tournament will be used to determine the final qualifier in 2018.
2019 World Cup qualification principles:
12 automatic qualifiers: Top three teams in each World Cup 2015 pool automatically qualify for Japan 2019 (New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Ireland, Scotland, France, Wales, Georgia, Japan, England and Italy).
One European qualifier: The highest-ranked team from the Rugby Europe Championship (excluding Georgia) will qualify for 2019.
Two Oceania qualifiers: Two teams to qualify for World Cup 2019 from a Pacific Tri-Nations championship played on a home and away basis over June 2016 and 2017.
One European/Oceania play-off qualifier: The third-place team from the Pacific Tri-Nations will play a home and away play-off against the second-ranked team in the Rugby Europe Championship (excluding Georgia), with the winner on aggregate qualifying for the next World Cup. The loser will qualify for the repêchage tournament.
Two Americas qualifiers: Canada and USA will play home and away with the winner on aggregate qualifying for the 2019 event. The loser will play home and away against the top-ranked South American team (excluding Argentina) home and away, with the winner on aggregate qualifying. The loser of this match qualifies for the repêchage tournament.
One African qualifier: The winner of the Rugby Africa Championship will qualify. The runner-up qualifies for the repêchage tournament.
Asia/Oceania play-off for repêchage place: The highest-ranked team from the Asian Rugby Championship (excluding Japan) will play home and away against the winner of the Oceania Cup, with the winner on aggregate qualifying for the repêchage tournament.
One repêchage qualifier: The repêchage tournament will feature four teams playing in a round-robin format, with the winners qualifying.
The new-look repêchage tournament will give teams further opportunity to qualify for the World Cup, where previously they would simply have been knocked out if they had failed to qualify from their regional qualifier. This means that we could again see all three Pacific Island nations feature in Japan, despite the fact they did not secure automatic qualification.