World Rugby confirms expanded 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia & new global calendar for men and women

The men’s Rugby World Cup 2027 in Australia will feature 24 teams after the World Rugby Council approved a historic reimagination of the competition format, window and timing – the largest revamp of the tournament since the inaugural event in Australia in 1987.

Reflecting World Rugby’s mission to increase the global competitiveness, reach, impact and value of international rugby, the 11th edition of the men’s pinnacle event will see the world’s top teams compete for the right to lift the Webb Ellis Cup across six weeks from 1 October to 13 November in 2027.

The new format will feature six pools of four teams, with a round of 16 added prior to the quarter-finals. This will enable the tournament window to be reduced from seven to six weeks, while promoting a rhythm that builds momentum across the pool phase and respects the same minimum number of rest days between matches as at France 2023.

Rugby World Cup 2027 at a glance:

· Rugby World Cup 2027 will be hosted between 1 October and 13 November.

· The tournament will be expanded from 20 to 24 teams.

· New reduced six-week (seven-weekend) Rugby World Cup window approved, supporting welfare, entertainment and value – pool phase reduced from five to four weeks.

· Round of 16 to be introduced with top two teams from each pool automatically qualifying along with the best four third-placed teams.

· Decision provides certainty for all stakeholders and maintains Rugby World Cup’s position as the jewel in the crown of the international calendar.

· Details of the qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2027 will be determined following a full review of France 2023 and consultation with unions and regions.

The Council also supported World Rugby’s desire to undertake the Pool Draw as late as possible to best reflect global competitiveness. This has been made possible by reform of the hosting model in May 2022.

Independent chairman of the Rugby World Cup 2027 and 2029 Board Sir Rod Eddington said: “This is a fantastic outcome for the Local Organising Company as we prepare to transfer from future host to next host of the men’s Rugby World Cup. Importantly, the decision made by the Council today will enable the LOC to move ahead with certainty and finalise the hosting details for the Rugby World Cup in Australia. We look forward to working in partnership with the Australian Government, our State/Territory governments and Rugby Australia over the coming months to do so.”

Following extensive consultation with the professional game, including regions, unions, domestic and international competitions, and detailed evaluation of the playing, commercial and fan landscape, the World Rugby Council also confirmed plans for the first-ever dedicated global calendars for men and women from 2026, aligning the international and domestic game.

Reform of Regulation 9 governing international player release has paved the way for the global club and international game to complement each other with clearly defined windows of release for international duties, as well as enhanced player welfare outcomes in the form of Player Load Guidelines.

A first for the women’s game, these dedicated international release windows will result in clarity of release periods for club/league and cross-border competitions, to allow certainty of planning and investment.

World Rugby is also committed to reviewing the women’s global calendar – the first-ever WXV tournament currently being played – on an ongoing basis to recognise the fast-evolving environment of the women’s game.

The changes will see the establishment of an enhanced global calendar for men’s rugby from 2026 with clearer international windows, including confirmation of the release window for Rugby World Cup 2027.

A new bi-annual international competition will be introduced from 2026, comprising a top division of 12 teams (Six Nations unions, SANZAAR unions and two further unions to be selected via a process run by SANZAAR), and a second division run by World Rugby of 12 teams with promotion and relegation commencing from 2030.

Played in the July and November international release windows, it will provide crucial opportunities (and certainty of fixtures) for unions currently outside of the existing annual competitions, and in turn provide opportunities for unions and regional associations through to the second division.

The calendar clarity will allow for a significant uplift in the number of cross-over matches between unions in the respective divisions (“high performance” and “performance”) are included in the global calendar in the two other years, providing performance nations (previously Tier 2) with annual competition certainty against high performance unions.

A new annual expanded Pacific Nations Cup competition will commence in 2024, featuring Canada, Fiji, Japan, Samoa, Tonga and USA with home fixtures and Japan and USA alternating as finals hosts, guaranteeing a minimum of three additional matches a year for these nations in addition to the new international competition and cross-over fixtures.