The qualification process for the 2019 Rugby World Cup has been announced, with a round-robin repechage event set to determine the 20th and final competing nation.
Twelve teams have already booked their places at the showpiece, which will take place in Japan for the first time, courtesy of top-three finishes in the pool stage of the 2015 World Cup.
The remaining slots will be contested in regional and cross-regional qualifiers beginning next year.
As a result of Japan's automatic qualification, there will be no direct passage to the 2019 World Cup from the Asian Rugby Championship, while the newly introduced repechage event will see the tournament line-up completed in November 2018.
World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "We are committed to further increase competitiveness at international level and the Rugby World Cup 2019 regional qualification process is designed to give all full member unions an opportunity to qualify, while delivering the best teams on merit."
Competing nations at 2019 Rugby World Cup
- 12 automatic qualifiers - New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Ireland, Scotland, France, Wales, Georgia, Japan, England and Italy.
- The highest-ranked team from the Rugby Europe Championship (excluding Georgia, who have already qualified).
- The two highest-ranked teams from a Pacific Tri-Nations Championship - played on a home-and-away basis over June 2016 and 2017.
- The winner of a home-and-away Europe/Oceania play-off between the second-ranked team in the Rugby Europe Championship (excluding Georgia) and the third-placed team in the Pacific Tri-Nations.
- Two Americas qualifiers. The winner of a home and away tie between Canada and the United States will qualify automatically. The loser of this match will play home and away against the top-ranked South American team (excluding Argentina) with a second place up for grabs.
- The winner of the Rugby Africa Championship.
- One repechage qualifier. The repechage tournament will feature: the loser of the Europe/Oceania play-off; the runner-up in the Rugby Africa Championship; the loser of the second Americas qualifying tie; the winner of a play-off between the highest-ranked team from the Asian Rugby Championship (excluding Japan) and the winner of the Oceania Cup.