Seven automatic qualifiers for the 2017 World Cup have been announced. They are:-
Australia, New Zealand, England, Fiji, France, Samoa and Scotland
The seven nations all reached the quarter finals of the 2013 tournament. The next World Cup will be held in Australia and NZ and will involve 14 teams.
The remaining seven participating nations will be selected from four regions; three from Europe, two from Asia Pacific, one from the Americas and another from MEA. The four regions will reveal their qualification programmes by October 2014 and the process will be open to Affiliate Member nations who gain Full status before then
USA were the only 2013 quarter finalist excluded but they do not have full member status
A decision has obviously been made to increase the geograpical spread of the tournament at the expense of the Pacific nations leaving the Cook I as a potential loser. The opportunity to include a Middle East or African nation e.g. Lebanon is very exciting and cannot be missed
It throws up some interesting clashes with a big prize at stake. We can all look forward to potential sudden death matches like USA v Canada, Italy v Russia, Lebanon v SA and PNG/Tonga v Cook I.