World Rugby have confirmed that the 2027 Rugby World Cup will be expanded by an additional four teams, with the tournament in Australia set to feature 24 nations.
World Rugby released a statement overviewing the ground-breaking changes, that are being put in place 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, 2027.”
The new format sees six pools of four teams, with an all-new ‘Round of 16’ added ahead of the quarter-final stage. This will reduce the tournament window down from seven to six weeks, whilst also keeping in-tune with the minimum rest days between matches.
World Rugby have unveiled a complete overhaul of the international calendar from 2026, with the 2027 Rugby World Cup expansion being ‘a cornerstone’. A key change also sees the draw for the 2027 set to take place much closer to the tournament. World Rugby have not yet confirmed the date of the draw, however reports are circulating that it will take place in January 2026.
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.”
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.”
World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin added: “Today’s decision is the culmination of a process that began in May 2022 with a new Rugby World Cup hosting model, greater collaboration on reform of the international calendar and recognition that the sport needed to evolve.
“A reduced pool phase with a more regular cadence of matches and the introduction of a round of 16 makes for a compelling and competitive pool phase where every match counts. To be able to achieve this new format in a reduced window while preserving important player welfare considerations is a huge step forward for the game and great for fans and players.”