Rugby World Cup qualifying set to begin
March 12, 2012
Craig Joubert will referee the opening game of Rugby World Cup qualifying © Getty Images
Qualifying for Rugby World Cup 2015 in England will begin on March 24 when Mexico take on Jamaica in Mexico City.
In all, 80 unions will attempt to gain a place at the sport's showpiece event, with 184 qualifying matches set to take place before the line-up is confirmed.
The opening game will be refereed by South Africa's Craig Joubert, who took the whistle for New Zealand's victory over France in the 2011 final at Eden Park.
While in Mexico, Joubert will conduct a workshop for local referees. Mexico became a full member of the International Rugby Board (IRB) in 2006.
"The IRB is committed to growing the game beyond its traditional heartlands into new markets and to increasing global participation rates even further," IRB chief Bernard Lapasset said.
"We have made huge progress over the past decade and, guided by a new 10-year strategic plan, rugby is perfectly positioned to reach out to more men, women and children around the world.
"Rugby World Cup is the game's showpiece, its pinnacle and its flagship tournament. As such, it is right that every member union has the opportunity to play in it."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Firdose Moonda talks to Rob Louw about the difficulties of being a South African touring New Zealand at the height of Apartheid
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games