World Rugby has confirmed the women’s Rugby World Cup will expand from 12 to 16 teams from 2025 onwards.
The Rugby World Cup Board took the decision earlier this year and say it reflects their commitment to accelerate global development of the women’s game as part of a strategic plan through until 2025.
World Rugby want to capitalise on record growth in women’s rugby in recent years, with women and girls now accounting for 28 per cent of the global playing population.
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The decision to increase the number of teams competing in the Women’s World Cup is designed to increase the global competitiveness of women’s international rugby and provide the opportunity for more teams to be more competitive on the biggest stages.
World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “Women’s rugby is the single greatest opportunity to grow the sport globally.
“In 2017 we set out an ambitious eight-year plan to accelerate the development of women in rugby, with a core pillar focussing on high-performance competition and an ambition to improve and expand the number of teams competing in pinnacle events.
“We have seen in recent years that more teams are making a statement at international level and unions are continuing to develop their women’s high-performance programmes.
“This is a milestone moment for the women’s game, expansion of the Rugby World Cup opens additional aspirational and inspirational playing pathway opportunities for unions at the highest level of the game and creates added incentive for unions worldwide to continue to invest and grow in their women’s programmes.”
The 2021 World Cup, the ninth edition since the inaugural tournament in 1991, will be held in New Zealand from September 18 to October 16. New Zealand are the defending champions after winning their fifth title.
The host selection process for the 2025 tournament begins in February 2021 and is set to conclude in May 2022 with a council vote.