Who and what to look out for in the Final Qualification Tournament
Now that the line-up is confirmed, we take a look at the four contenders for the last remaining ticket to Rugby World Cup 2023.
On match-day two at The Sevens Stadium, Os Lobos ran in 13 tries to beat Kenya 85-0 before Hong Kong lost 49-7 to the men’s Eagles.
USA take on Portugal in the final match of the tournament in Dubai on Friday and whoever wins will become the 20th team to book their passage to France next year.
Kenya and Hong Kong can no longer finish top of the Final Qualification Tournament standings, having lost their opening two matches, and therefore cannot reach RWC 2023.
With so much still at stake, we give you the lowdown on the tournament, and where the winner will line up in France next year.
What is the RWC 2023 Final Qualification Tournament?
The RWC 2023 Final Qualification Tournament is a four-team round robin tournament that will be played between 6-18 November.
Whoever finishes top of the standings following the final round of matches will secure the final ticket to Rugby World Cup 2023.
The four teams that will compete in the RWC 2023 Final Qualification Tournament are Hong Kong, Kenya, Portugal and the USA.
Portugal were the first team to secure their place in the tournament, as they qualified as the third-highest ranked team from the last two editions of the Rugby Europe Championship.
Os Lobos were subsequently joined by Kenya, who qualified as Rugby Africa Cup 2022 runners-up, the USA, who lost the Americas 2 play-off, and Hong Kong, who were defeated in the Asia/Pacific 1 play-off.
The Final Qualification Tournament got underway with a comfortable victory for USA as Dylan Fawsitt and Christian Dyer each scored a hat-trick of tries in the Eagles’ bonus-point 68-14 win against Kenya.
Following a scoreless opening 20 minutes, USA broke the deadlock while Geoffrey Okwach was in the sin-bin, as Fawsitt crossed for his first try. He soon got a second and Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz added a third for the Eagles on the stroke of half-time.
Fawsitt completed his hat-trick early in the second half before Dyer and Nate Augspurger crossed the whitewash either side of a converted Brian Juma try for Kenya.
Dyer then notched two tries inside three minutes to complete his own hat-trick shortly after the hour mark, while Mike Sosene Feagai and Mitch Wilson also got on the scoresheet for USA.
It was Kenya who had final say, however, as Joshua Weru touched down for the Simbas’ second try of the match, converted by Darwin Mukidza.
Portugal ensured they kept pace with USA at the top of the standings after coming from behind to beat Hong Kong 42-14 at The Sevens Stadium.
Alexander Post gave Hong Kong a seventh-minute lead in Dubai, coming up with the ball following a strong forward drive over the line.
However, Portugal responded with three converted tries before half-time as Josè Madeira, Raffaele Storti and Miguel Morais all crossed the whitewash.
Despite having Joāo Granate in the sin-bin, Portugal added a fourth try in the third minute of the second half, through Rodrigo Marta, to wrap up a try-scoring bonus point.
Further well-worked scores followed from Storti and José Lima before Jack Neville’s try for Hong Kong on the hour mark brought an end to the scoring.
Replacement Portugal second-row Duarte Torgal was shown a yellow card late on but it had little impact on the result.
Portugal moved top of the tournament standings as they enjoyed a comfortable win against the Simbas on match-day two.
Mike Tadjer scored the first of a hat-trick of tries in the opening minute and he grabbed a second soon afterwards to help give Os Lobos a 14-0 lead.
Manuel Cardoso Pinto, José Lima and Vincent Pinto each crossed the whitewash before half-time, while Kenya’s task was made even more difficult within two minutes of the restart as Brian Juma received a second yellow card and was therefore sent off permanently.
Os Lobos made the most of their numerical advantage, running in second-half tries through Vincent Pinto, captain Tomás Appleton (twice), Jose Andrade, Joāo Belo, Lionel Campergue and a penalty try.
That result meant that USA needed to win big to keep their place at the top of the standings, and they opened the scoring when Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz powered over from close range.
Kapeli Pifeleti Jr, Nate Augsperger and Cam Dolan all touched down before half-time to give the men’s Eagles a 28-0 lead at the break.
Mitch Wilson scored USA’s fifth try of the match seven minutes into the second half, before Augsperger and Moni Tonga’uiha added further scores either side of a brilliant finish from Hong Kong winger Matthew Worley.
It means that the winner of Portugal’s meeting with USA in Dubai on Friday will claim their place at RWC 2023.
Match day three will take place at The Sevens Stadium on 18 November, with the opening match between Hong Kong and Kenya at 17:00 local time (GMT+4).
The RWC 2023 Final Qualification Tournament will draw to a close with the match between the USA and Portugal, which will kick off at 19:30 local time.
Entry to all six matches at The Sevens Stadium will be free to the public wishing to attend.
Fans interested in travelling to the Final Qualification Tournament and looking to purchase spectator packages can get in touch with local tour operators at firstname.lastname@example.org (+971 (0)4 389 8389) or contact email@example.com for match day and venue information.
The Final Qualification Tournament will be broadcast by The Rugby Network in the USA and Canada, on Sport TV in Portugal and SuperSport in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Fans who want to tune in but do not live in those countries or regions can stream the matches live via RugbyWorldCup.com/2023.
The team that finishes top of the RWC 2023 Final Qualification Tournament will take their place in Pool C in France next year.
Awaiting the Final Qualification Tournament winner at RWC 2023 are Wales, Australia, Fiji and Georgia, who have all been drawn in Pool C.
Whoever wins the tournament in Dubai will open their RWC 2023 campaign against Wales in Nice on 16 September, 2023, with kick-off scheduled for 17:45 local time (GMT+2).
Their next match will be seven days later, against Georgia at Stadium de Toulouse (kick-off 14:00 local time) before they play Australia at Stade Geoffroy Guichard in Saint-Étienne on 1 October (kick-off 17:45 local time).
The Final Qualification Tournament winner will return to Toulouse on 8 October as they complete their pool phase campaign by taking on Fiji at 21:00 local time (GMT+2).