The next Rugby World Cup will be the women’s edition in 2021. Then we have the men’s in 2023. Following that the next Women’s World Cup is expected to be in 2025. But this will be a World Cup with a change. From the 2025 edition of the Women’s Rugby World Cup there will be 16 teams in the competition. 2021 is set to be the last tournament with just 12.
The World Cup had 16 teams in two previous editions, 1998 in the Netherlands, and 2002 in Spain. All others have had 12.
The expansion means we can expect some new faces in the 2025 World Cup, or at least faces we haven’t seen in a while. There will be one debutant at the 2021 World Cup. Fiji will partake in their first women’s edition of the Rugby World Cup, having previously withdrawn from the 2010 edition. Colombia and Kenya will face off in the cross-regional play-off, with the winner will go into the repechage with a chance to make their first appearance at the Rugby World Cup. The four additional places should give more teams the chance to qualify and allow for more games.
Ideally the increase to 16 teams will see the tournament format revamped. We can speculate there will be 4 pools of 4. It would be beneficial if, like the men’s tournament, the top two teams progress to the quarter finals, with 3rd place securing their place in the next edition. That would lead the bottom 4 teams having to qualify the next time around.
At the moment the Women;s version of the rugby World Cup see’s multiple play-offs for the teams that are eliminated. They could potentially still do this to provide the women’s sides with more games. In fact they could have a secondary tournament of sorts with the teams that are eliminated facing off in the Quarter Finals of a Shield type competition.
One issue to avoid would be midweek games. Short turnarounds, particularly for smaller nations, plague the men’s World Cup. It’s important games are played over Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, rather than teams playing on the weekend and then playing midweek.
Ireland will play in the European qualifiers early next year. They will face Scotland, Italy, and the winner of the Rugby Europe Championship between Spain, Russia, and Netherlands. The winner will qualify as Europe 1. The runner-up of the tournament will go into the repechage, alongside the winner of the play-off between Kenya and Colombia, the runner-up of the Asia qualifying series, and Samoa.
If Ireland qualify as Europe 1, they will go into Pool B with Canada, USA, and the winner of the Asian qualifying series. If Ireland qualify as the Repechage winner, they will go into Pool A with New Zealand, Australia, and Wales.