For Burundi and Cameroon the dream of representing Africa at Rugby World Cup 2023 is now over after they fell short in the Rugby Africa Cup Repechage earlier this month.
Both teams were beaten by host nation Burkina Faso in the pre-qualifier and are eliminated from the African qualification process as a result.
Burkina Faso recorded a comfortable 52-3 victory against Burundi on 5 June and then defeated Cameroon, 17-13, eight days later, also in the capital city of Ouagadougou.
The Stallions outscored Cameroon three tries to one, with number eight Ali Papi Traore, full-back Ousmane Tioro and replacement Cheick Abass Sawadogo getting their names on the scoresheet.
As winners of the round-robin tournament, Burkina Faso enter the 12-team Rugby Africa Cup 2021 competition.
The teams have been split into four pools of three with matches in Pools A and B will take place between 3-11 July, with matches in Pools C and D scheduled for 9-18 July.
Burkina Faso find themselves paired with Tunisia and Zimbabwe in Pool D. Neither Burkina Faso or Tunisia have ever been to a Rugby World Cup before, but Zimbabwe are looking to make it to their third tournament having appeared in 1987 and 1991.
The Sables have enjoyed a resurgence of late and will have gained confidence from winning the Victoria Cup when it was last held in 2019, with some impressive victories against Kenya and Uganda along the way.
Tunisia, however, are only ranked four places below them in 39th in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings and the battle to be top of Pool D could be highly competitive.
Pool A will be played in Abidjan and features Namibia, Madagascar and hosts the Ivory Coast. Namibia have traditionally been the strongest team in the region outside of South Africa for the last two decades, securing qualification for the last six Rugby World Cups.
Still without a Rugby World Cup win, the Welwitschias will be determined to make it to France and set the record straight.
The Ivory Coast’s only previous Rugby World Cup experience was in 1995, while rugby-mad Madagascar are hoping to debut in the country that introduced them to the game.
Kenya came tantalisingly close to qualification for RWC 2019, only to miss out in the repechage and are the highest ranked team in Pool B. Games against Zambia and Senegal lie in wait in Nairobi.
Pool C consists of Uganda, Algeria and Ghana and will take place in Kampala.
The two highest ranked teams in each of the pools in 2021 will play in a streamlined Rugby Africa Cup the following year.
Formatted as a straight knockout competition, Rugby Africa Cup 2022 will include four quarter-finals, two semi-finals and a final, all played in one venue.
In the first quarter-final, the winner of Pool A will take on the runner-up in Pool D, and in quarter-final 2, the winner of Pool D will play the runner-up in Pool A.
If the first two pools play out according to the rankings, Namibia and Tunisia and Zimbabwe and Madagascar will contest the first two quarter-finals of Rugby Africa Cup 2022. The winners of these quarter-finals will then play each other in semi-final 1.
Quarter-final 3 involves the winner of Pool B against the runner-up of Pool C, and quarter-final 4 will be contested by the winner of Pool C and the runner-up in Pool B. The winners of these quarter-finals will then meet in the other semi-final. Elgon Cup rivals, Kenya and Uganda, will be expected to top their respective pools and enter the quarter-finals as favourites in their half of the draw.
The two teams left in the competition will then play-off for the Africa 1 place at Rugby World Cup 2023, in Pool A alongside three-time winners New Zealand, hosts France, Italy and the Americas 1 qualifier.
The loser of the Rugby Africa Cup final will still have another chance to qualify for France 2023 via the Final Qualification Tournament in November 2022.