As many as five of the 10 nations competing in the 2008 World Cup in Australia could be from Europe.
Australia won the last World Cup in 2000
England and France will be direct entries, along with hosts Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
But Wales, Scotland and Ireland will have the chance to join them through a convoluted qualifying process.
West Indies, Japan, South Africa, USA, Holland, Georgia, Russia, Serbia, Fiji, Lebanon, Tonga, Samoa and Cook Islands are also chasing a place in the finals.
Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Lebanon will be joined in a European World Cup qualifying tournament by the top two teams to emerge from a preliminary competition featuring Georgia, Holland, Russia and Serbia.
Georgia and Holland met in Tbilisi on Friday, the home side winning 57-16 in front of a crowd of almost 11,000.
The game was also shown live on Georgian national televison.
The European World Cup qualifying tournament will begin in October, with the teams divided into two groups and playing reverse fixtures in 2007.
The group winners will go through to the main draw while the runners-up will feature in a play-off against the winners of the Atlantic group and the third-placed finisher in the Pacific group to decide the 10th finalist.
West Indies, Japan, South Africa and the USA will meet in the Atlantic group, with Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Cook Islands playing each other in the Pacific pool.