— Published 25 October 2023

World Rugby makes its revolution

A revolution. Nothing less. With just a few days to go before the World Cup Final, where the title will be decided between two of the tournament’s regulars – South Africa and New Zealand – World Rugby gave the international calendar a major overhaul on Tuesday October 24. The body chaired by England’s Bill Beaumont has changed the format of the men’s World Cup, and at the same time announced the creation of a new competition. The first decision was to expand the World Cup from 20 to 24 teams, starting with the next edition, scheduled for October 1 to November 13, 2027 in Australia. The teams will be divided into six pools of four – compared with four groups of five in the current formula – with the addition of an extra round, the Round of 16, in the knockout phase. At the same time, World Rugby has decided to reduce the duration of the tournament from seven to six weeks. This change is intended to give the competition more rhythm, but does not affect the rule of a minimum of five days’ rest between matches involving the same team. Bill Beaumont comments: “If we are to become a truly global sport, we need to create more relevance, opportunity and competitiveness to attract new fans. This incredible 2023 World Cup has demonstrated the passion and potential that exists beyond the top ten or twelve nations, if we think big and think inclusively. It is not acceptable to do nothing.” Another decision: the creation of a new competition, the Nations Cup. It will be held every two years from 2026, in July and November, in place of the current tours. On the bill: the six nations of the Tournament (France, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Italy), the four countries of the Rugby Championship (New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Argentina), plus two other guest nations, which could be Japan and Fiji for the first edition in 2026. The matches, six per country, will be played in July in the Southern Hemisphere and in November in the Northern Hemisphere. A final will be played at the end of November. From 2030 onwards, the Nations Cup will take on more muscle, with the addition of a promotion-relegation system, with play-offs, and a twelve-team second division.