Rugby World Cup 2027 expansion and kick-off dates confirmed

Jared Wright
William Webb Ellis Trophy prior to the Rugby World Cup France 2023

William Webb Ellis Trophy prior to the Rugby World Cup France 2023.

World Rugby have announced that the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia will be expanded to 24 teams while also confirming the kick-off dates for the tournament.

The World Rugby Council voted for the expansion on Tuesday, October 24, with the governing body and unions committing to increasing the competitiveness of the global game.

The news came at the same time as the announcement of the new global men’s tournament that will debut in 2026.

Australia will host the 24 teams in 2027 in what is the biggest revamp of the tournament since the first World Cup in 1987.

How the 2027 World Cup will work

The 2027 Rugby World Cup is set to kick off on October 1, with the final being played on November 13, 2027.

The 11th edition of the tournament will see the pools increase from the current four groups of five sides to feature six pools of four teams.

There will now also be a round of 16 included in the competition before the quarter-finals, with the new format enabling the tournament window to be reduced from seven weeks to six.

The semi-finals, bronze final and grand final will then take place thereafter.

World Rugby add that this will also promote “a rhythm that builds momentum across the pool phase and respects the same minimum number of rest days between matches as at France 2023.”

World Rugby are set to confirm the qualification process for the 2027 World Cup once a full review of 2023 has been completed.

Later draw

The Council also supported World Rugby’s desire to undertake the pool draw as late as possible to best reflect global competitiveness.

This comes after much scrutiny over the perceived lopsided pools for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, with Ireland, France, South Africa and New Zealand all drawn on the same side of the draw despite being ranked in the top four before the tournament.

The draw for the 2023 Rugby World Cup was done based on the world rankings after the 2019 tournament but will be held closer to the kick-off of 2027.

“This has been made possible by reform of the hosting model in May 2022, which sees World Rugby take greater control of key decisions and more financial risk,” a World Rugby statement added.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “If we are to become a truly global sport, we must create greater relevance, opportunity and competitiveness to attract new fans and grow value.

“This incredible Rugby World Cup 2023 tournament has demonstrated the passion and potential that lies beyond the top 10 or 12 nations if we think big and think inclusive. It is not acceptable to accept the status quo. Not acceptable to do nothing.

“The decision to expand Rugby World Cup 2027 to 24 teams is logical and the right thing to do. Underpinned by a new global calendar that increases certainty and opportunity, we are focused on raising standards, closing the gaps and creating a spectacle that fans demand to see. With its love of sport and major events, Australia is the perfect place to do just that.”

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