The road to Japan gets underway for African nations this weekend as Rugby World Cup 2019 qualfiers begin in Morocco
Casablanca will provide the backdrop as the hosts face Mauritius and Nigeria in a round-robin event over the coming week in the Rugby Africa Division 1C competition.
Following the tournament, the winner will be promoted to Division 1B in 2017 and continue to challenge as part of the RWC 2019 qualifiers.
Rugby Africa President Abdelaziz Bougja said: “I am delighted that the Morocco Rugby Union will host this tournament and I want to take this opportunity to thank them for their hospitality and cooperation in organising this great event.
“This is an important milestone for Rugby Africa, as we begin the road to Rugby World Cup 2019, which begins in earnest this weekend in Casablanca. RWC 2019 is an opportunity to grow rugby even further and push it into new territories around Africa. We want to inspire people from all over the continent to play and get involved with the game.”
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “With a very special Rugby World Cup 2015 fresh in our memories, we are excited to be launching the African qualification process for Japan 2019. The process gives a clear pathway for unions to make it to the tournament and we know that unforgettable moments will be shared by the players and teams who are beginning their Rugby World Cup journey.
“Rugby World Cup is not just a tournament of 20 teams but in fact it is designed to include all full member unions. I would like to thank Rugby Africa and the Morocco Rugby Union for hosting these matches and for being part of this great tournament.”
With 12 teams having secured their place at Japan 2019 courtesy of 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 and, for the first time, a stand-alone round-robin repechage tournament to determine the final qualifier in 2018.
All qualified teams will be known by November 2018. Meanwhile, the pool allocation draw for RWC 2019 will take place in May 2017 in Japan.