The Rugby World Cup returns to France this year for the first time since 2007, with possibly the most highly-anticipated and open-ended tournament yet.


The hosts cut the ribbon against New Zealand in what could also turn out to be the competition’s finale in just over a month’s time.

Fellow Six Nations teams England, Wales, Italy, Scotland and Ireland all play this weekend, too, with the latter being one of the four favourites to lift the Webb Ellis trophy.

For those tuning in to watch the RWC unfold but who remain unfamiliar with rugby union and its rules and quirks, welcome! We're on hand to help figure out the all-important bonus point system. brings you the complete guide to Rugby World Cup bonus points and pool stage tiebreakers.

Read more RWC guides and explainers: Rugby World Cup TV coverage | Rugby World Cup fixtures | Rugby World Cup radio coverage | Rugby World Cup presenters and commentators | Who has won most RWC titles?

How do Rugby World Cup bonus points work?

Bonus points are simply extra points available to teams during the group stage, outside of the usual points available for wins and losses. A win is worth four, a draw is worth two and losses are worth zero.

There are two different bonus points available:

  • When a team scores four or more tries in a match, they earn a bonus point on top of the points they’ll earn from winning or drawing the game.
  • Another bonus point is available if a nation loses a game within seven points.

For example, if Team A loses to Team B this weekend by a score of 17-10, they’ll earn a single losing bonus point.

Teams can earn both bonus points, meaning that a side that loses can still come away with up to two points if they score four tries and lose the game within seven points on the scoreboard.

When was the bonus point system introduced?

Bonus points were originally created as part of the National Provincial Championship, which is a domestic competition in New Zealand, in 1995.

It wasn’t until 2003 that the bonus point format was used on a large scale, however, being introduced at the 2003 World Cup in Australia, which was famously won by England.

The system’s appearance at the 2003 tournament was the driving force behind all rugby union competitions adopting bonus points.

Rugby World Cup pool stage tiebreakers

Several factors influence pool placings and a team’s qualification to the knockout stages. If teams are level on points at the end of the group stage, the list of criteria for deciding who advances is as follows:

  • The winner of the match between two tied teams is ranked higher.
  • The team with the best points difference in the pool stages is ranked higher.
  • The team with the best difference between tries scored and tries conceded in the pool stages is ranked higher.
  • The team which has scored the most points in the pool stages is ranked higher.
  • The team which has scored the most tries in the pool stages is ranked higher.
  • Should the teams remain level after steps 1-5, official World Rugby Rankings on a set date will determine the higher ranked team.

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