At least eight of the 20 teams who will compete at Rugby World Cup 2023 will come from Europe.
Two remaining direct qualification spots are up for grabs with the 2021 and 2022 Rugby Europe Championship acting as the pathway to RWC 2023.
Those places will go to the teams that finish first and second in the combined table following the conclusion of this season’s Championship. The team that finishes third, meanwhile, will advance to the Final Qualification Tournament.
Georgia, Spain, Portugal, Russia and Romania made sure of their places in the RWC 2023 qualification pathway as they finished in the top five of the six-team Rugby Europe Championship 2020.
Belgium, who ended the COVID-19 disrupted campaign bottom of the standings, faced a play-off against the Netherlands, who had won the Rugby Europe Trophy 2019-20.
At the Stade du Pachy on 29 May, 2021, a late David Weersma penalty ensured it was the Netherlands who would complete the line-up for the 2021 and 2022 Rugby Europe Championship, following a narrow 23-21 win.
By the time that Weersma kicked the Dutch to victory in Waterloo, the 2021 Rugby Europe Championship was already underway.
📈The final rankings of the 2021 Championship. Points will be carried over into the 2022 edition and we'll find out who will be going to @rugbyworldcup!— Rugby Europe (@rugby_europe) December 18, 2021
🎟 Two tickets and a place in the global repechage will be up for grabs at @France2023. pic.twitter.com/0XF6N1M03Y
Lelos pacesetters at half-way stage
Georgia continued their recent good form in the competition as they opened their campaign with away victories in Portugal, Spain and Russia.
The Lelos then beat Romania 28-17 in Tbilisi to open a nine-point lead at the top of the Championship at the end of March.
Following their play-off defeat of Belgium, the Netherlands’ first Rugby Europe Championship fixture in 19 years came away from home against the leaders in June.
Davit Niniashvili scored three of Georgia’s eight tries in Telavi as the hosts claimed a 48-15 victory that confirmed their fourth successive Rugby Europe Championship title.
It means that at the half-way stage, the Lelos are in pole position to claim top spot in the combined 2021 and 2022 table and qualify for RWC 2023 as Europe 1.
Georgia head into the 2022 Rugby Europe Championship with 24 points and a 10-point lead atop the combined standings.
Romania and Portugal both have 14 points with five matches to go, having won three and lost two during the 2021 campaign.
It is the Oaks, though, who sit second thanks to their 28-27 win in Lisbon last March, which was secured by two converted tries in the final 10 minutes.
Spain are two points further back, having won two matches in 2021, as did Russia who are on nine points heading into the 2022 Rugby Europe Championship.
The Netherlands lost each of their five matches on their return to the Championship and cannot afford any further slip-ups if they are to qualify for RWC 2023.
However, their hopes of playing in France are not over yet. The team that finishes third in the combined 2021 and 2022 table will compete in the Final Qualification Tournament in November, meaning there is a lot to play for over the next six weeks.