Rugby World Cup 2011
Russia and Georgia qualify for Rugby World Cup
February 28, 2010
Georgia have booked their place at the Rugby World Cup © Associated Press
Russia have qualified for Rugby World Cup for the first time in their history following their 21-21 draw with Romania in the European Nations Cup (ENC) in Sochi on Saturday.
The draw takes Russia to 21 points in the ENC 2010 standings, two points behind neighbours Georgia, who also confirmed their place at Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand this weekend with a 17-9 victory over Spain.
With two matches still to play in the top tier, Russia will post a minimum of 23 points even if they lose to both Germany and Georgia, with a point awarded for a loss in the ENC. Portugal or Romania can also reach 23 points if they win their remaining games, but Russia would still finish second if they did end up level as they have the superior record, having beaten Portugal twice and the Romanians once.
A seventh victory in eight matches in the ENC extended Georgia's lead in the standings and ensures they cannot now finish outside the top two places which have direct qualification for RWC 2011. Georgia currently have 23 points - the only blot on their record a 20-20 draw with Portugal last season. Only Russia can still pip them to the title, so Georgia were able to celebrate qualifying for a third successive Rugby World Cup.
The Georgia v Russia match on March 20 is likely to be the decider in terms of ENC final standings. The ENC champion will qualify as Europe 1 and join Argentina, England, Scotland and the Play-off winner in Pool B in New Zealand, the runner-up slotting into Pool C with Australia, Ireland, Italy and USA. .
Whoever finishes third in the ENC standings, be it Portugal or Romania, will then meet either Lithuania or the winner of ENC Division 2A on a home and away basis for the right to enter the cross-continental play-off to determine the 20th and final qualifier for RWC 2011.
This European side will first have to overcome Tunisia and then the winner of Uruguay's encounter with the Asian Five Nations runner-up. Portugal are no stranger to this route, having qualified for their first Rugby World Cup in 2007 with a one-point aggregate win over Uruguay. The other place at Rugby World Cup 2011 - the Asian qualifier - will be determined by the end of May with the Asian Five Nations winner to join hosts New Zealand, France, Tonga and Canada in Pool A.
"Though I am not Georgian, I understand perfectly well how the Georgians must feel now and share with them the excitement any local rugby supporter must experience now that the Georgian national team has won its third RWC ticket in a row and that the word "Georgia" will resound at the international stage once again," said coach and former Wallaby centre Tim Lane.
"It was our goal to bring Georgia to the Rugby World Cup again - I am really happy that this goal has been achieved. Now our goal as a team is to make a worthy appearance at the Rugby World Cup."
Rugby World Cup 2011 Pools: