Hong Kong ran out comfortable 51-0 winners over the Cook Islands in their Asia/Oceania play-off second leg at the Hong Kong Football Club on Saturday to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for Rugby World Cup 2019.
The Asia Rugby Championship 2018 winners will now take their place alongside Canada, the loser of Samoa v Germany play-off – the Pacific Islanders won the first leg 66-15 last weekend – and the Rugby Africa Gold Cup runners-up in the four-team global repechage in November that will determine the 20th and final qualifier for Japan 2019.
While Hong Kong only needed to avoid a loss of more than 23 points to advance, having won the first leg 26-3 in Rarotonga last weekend, coach Leigh Jones had predicted that more was to come from his charges, and they duly delivered with a six-try shutout of the Cook Islands at home.
“I think we sent a real strong message now. If you look at the Cook Islands, with so many players playing in top rugby competitions around the world, it is going to take a good side to beat us now.
“This series tells me that we can compete at tier two level. Now we need to be able to do that week in and week out and that will be the focus going forward.”
Looking ahead to the repechage and Hong Kong's bid to reach a first-ever Rugby World Cup, Jones believes that his side has sent a message to the opposition this November.
In African region, a third straight win puts Namibia in total command at the top of the standings with 15 points and on course to qualify directly for Rugby World Cup 2019 as Africa 1.
As it stands, Namibia would qualify for the World Cup while Kenya Simbas would head to the repechage.
Samoa took a giant stride towards Pool A at Rugby World Cup 2019 following a comfortable 66-15 first-leg play-off victory over Germany in Apia on Saturday. The loser of the game, likely to be Germany, will head to the repechage.
In previous years the repechage, a last-chance opportunity to qualify for RWC 2019, has followed a knock-out format in line with the rest of the qualification process. This year’s edition, however, will be a round-robin tournament between four teams to be held in France during the November test window. Specific dates and locations are to be confirmed.
The ranking format for teams in the Repechage has yet to be confirmed. While wins will be the primary determinant of who earns World Cup qualification, tie-breakers such as bonus points, head-to-head results, or points differential could all come into play.
The successful qualifier will be the 20th, and final, participant to qualify for RWC 2019. This country will play in Pool B, joining Africa 1, Italy, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Additional material derived from World Rugby