France Withdraw as host of RLWC2025

15th May 2023

The board of International Rugby League will convene to consider options for the 2025 World Cup after the France 2025 organising committee was forced to withdraw from hosting the tournament earlier today.†

IRL Chair Troy Grant said the decision was very disappointing. However, the France 2025 board of directors felt they had no choice after the French government demanded a guarantee for the risk of loss for the event, considering that the conditions initially set to secure the economic viability of the event were not met, after additional time and funding provided to the committee by the French Government to that end. "Itís difficult to express how disappointed I am with this news," he said. "Thereís no secret as to how important the strengthening of France as a rugby league nation is to our global game and central to our strategic plans. The RLWC in France in 2025 was always an ambitious project given the unprecedented short lead in time due to the pandemic, however it had the advantage of following and leveraging off the widely acknowledged RLWC2021 success. Despite the historically short lead in period, Luc Lacoste and his LOC worked tirelessly and achieved so much in a short time. Luc has brought a renewed zest and interest to French Rugby League during his tenure and the World Cup was planned to be the springboard for further development of the sport in France.† The factors that impacted on the bid teamís ability to complete the early structure of the tournament, such as the economic crisis and, in particular, inflationary pressure on host town council budgets, undermined their ability to secure adequate securities for the event to satisfy the governmentís strict conditional benchmarks, put forward from the beginning of the process, for the tournament to proceed. The French Government, particularly the Sports Minister Amťlie Oudťa-Castťra, supported the bid team financially and granted additional time to meet benchmarks given the interruptions and obstacles that were put in their way that were out of their control. I respect the French Governmentís decision amid the challenges they are facing but I canít hide my disappointment, that I conveyed clearly to them in person. Despite our focus having been on France, we will now accelerate our consideration of other contingency options."

The IRL board will now consider other options for RLWC2025 while continuing work to finalise international fixtures for the 2023 and 2024 seasons. The IRL expects to be able to advise member nations of planned qualifying matches or alternative fixtures after July 2023.

IRL chair Troy Grant added : "The board meets face to face in July and we will then be able to determine together our next steps forward and consider the other bids we have received for not only 2025, but 2029, 2033 and World Cup 9s events in the future. Exciting international content for 2023 and 2024, in addition to the recent historic Tongan tour to England, will be announced publicly shortly, which will be the front end of our much needed and highly anticipated calendar."

ERL Suspended planned Qualifiers

25th May 2023

Due to uncertainties surrounding the hosting of the 2025 Rugby League World Cup, the European Rugby League board has announced that it will delay its planned international competitions scheduled for this autumn.

"It was a tremendously difficult decision, but the circumstances have left us in an almost impossible position," said ERL chair Dean Andrew. ďIt is very disappointing that we have to delay the staging of these events, but it is the only sensible course of action available to us. At the moment, International Rugby League is considering its options for the next World Cup and requires time to finalise details, but this has left our members with little planning time to arrange affordable flights and accommodation on the current schedule. Once RLWC2025 details are known, we expect a revised, transparent and inclusive qualification pathway to be confirmed and fixtures rearranged. As a result, this yearís ERL championships - which would have doubled up as World Cup qualifying rounds towards RLWC2025 - have been delayed, meaning the European Championships A (Men), European Championships B (Men), European RLWC Qualifying Competition (Women), Middle East & Africa Cup (Men) and Americas Championship (Men) are now removed from the 2023 calendar. However, ERL will continue to explore alternatives for nations this autumn." Andrew added: "As International Rugby League is not due to make further RLWC2025 hosting decisions until at least July 2023, and is therefore unable to give clarity on revised qualification requirements or financial subsidies for those events, the ERL board felt it impossible to ask national federations to continue planning for this yearís tournaments."

Ref - IRL [Viewed 28 May 2023] / FN-30

IRL announces New Look RLWC for 2026

3rd Aug 2023

The next IRL Rugby League World Cup will take place in the Southern Hemisphere in 2026, with menís, womenís and wheelchair tournaments to again be played alongside each other.

An IRL board meeting in Singapore has agreed to shift the World Cup from 2025 to 2026 and stage it under a revised format as part of a new calendar to 2030 aimed at capitalising on the growth of the international game. The 2026 Rugby League World Cup will feature 10 menís, eight womenís and eight wheelchair teams. The changes were made after Franceís decision to withdraw as hosts of the previously scheduled 2025 Rugby League World Cup.

In addition, it has been decided that the following Womenís Rugby League World Cup, after RLWC2026, will be held as a stand-alone tournament in 2028 The move recognises the rapid development of Womenís Rugby League since RLWC2017 and follows the success of the stand-alone FIFA Womenís World Cup being currently played in Australia and New Zealand.

The cycle has also changed for the Menís World Cup, with the next tournament after RLWC2026 to be played in 2030.

The IRL will work to determine where best to position the Wheelchair World Cup after RLWC2026.

A decision on the hosting rights for the 2026 Rugby League World Cup in the Southern Hemisphere, featuring Menís, Womenís and Wheelchair tournaments, will be made by the end of this year. A competitive tender process for all World Cups until 2030 will also commence this year.

By reverting to 10 Menís teams - the same number that participated at the 2008 World Cup Ė RLWC2026 and RLWC2030 will be elite tournaments featuring the strongest nations and best players. Greater emphasis will thereby be placed on developing Regional Championships for Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East-Africa and the Americas, to ensure there are genuine pathways for nations to develop and ultimately qualify for future World Cups.

The eight Menís quarter finalists from RLWC2021, played last year in England, will automatically qualify for the 2026 Rugby League World Cup, along with the four Womenís and Wheelchair semi-finalists.

The IRL will consult with member nations to design a qualification framework for remaining World Cup berths. Announcements about Regional Championships and other tournaments, as well as tours by Southern Hemisphere teams to the Northern Hemisphere - including the Kangaroos and Kiwis - and vice-versa, will be made soon.

IRL Chair Troy Grant said: "The IRL board has made these decisions to create more compelling content and secure the financial future of the international game. The cancellation of France 2025 has given us an opportunity to refresh the structure of the World Cup and associated tournaments as part of a long-term international calendar that all in the game have been desperately seeking.Ē The Rugby League World Cup is the pinnacle of our sport and an elite tournament that all nations should aspire to take part in. With 10 menís teams at the 2026 and 2030 World Cups, there will be greater focus on Regional Championships and qualifying tournaments. The growth of Womenís Rugby League has been at such a phenomenal rate that the IRL Board believes they deserve to have their own World Cup staged as a stand-alone tournament from 2028 onwards. With the Menís World Cup cycle moving back a year, there will now be a World Cup every 24 months, but this is not a set-and-forget international calendar and there will be opportunities to capitalise on the future growth we believe these changes will generate."

Ref - IRL [Viewed 6 Aug 2023] / FN-30

IRL announces World Series Qualifiers

7th Oct 2023

The Board of International Rugby League has confirmed significant details about the gameís new international calendar and the next two Menís, Womenís and Wheelchair Rugby League World Cups. After announcing a new look World Cup format and international calendar until 2030 at Julyís Board meeting in Singapore, the IRL Board met again this week and agreed on further details, including the structure of a World Series as part of the menís qualifying process for RLWC2026.

RLWC2026, to be hosted in the Southern Hemisphere, will again feature Menís, Womenís and Wheelchair tournaments played side by side before each discipline is afforded its own stand-alone World Cup. The next Wheelchair World Cup, after 2026, will be staged in 2029 Ė in between the 2028 Womenís World Cup and the 2030 Menís World Cup. A bidding process to host one or more of the 2028 Womenís Rugby League World Cup, the 2029 Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup and the 2030 Menís Rugby League World Cup 2030 has been confirmed and a public invitation to tender (ITT) process will be launched next week. The deadline to submit bids for RLWC2026 has been deferred until March 31, 2024, at the request of the tenderers.

IRL Chair Troy Grant said: "Now that we have a clear view of the International Calendar until 2030, it is important to start the ITT process so that the IRL has plenty of time to secure long term hosts and sponsorships for the gameís pinnacle event. The qualification path is also becoming clearer for RLWC2026, and the development of the Regional Championships and World Series will be broadened, and better understood, after consultation with all of our member nations in the confederations. The Regional Qualifiers and World Series construct is key for the longer term, so that we have genuine engaged pathways for all nations to realise their ambitions."

2025 World Series Qualifier

A new World Series concept will be introduced in 2025 to determine the final two menís berths for RLWC2026, alongside the quarter-finalists from last yearís World Cup - Australia, Samoa, New Zealand, England, Lebanon, Tonga, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. The World Series will be contested by one team from each of the IRLís four regions Ė Cook Islands (as the sole eligible Asia-Pacific nation) and the winners of the Americas, European and Middle East-Africa (MEA) qualifying tournaments. Details of these competitions will be finalised this year. The top two teams at the World Series will qualify for RLWC2026.

RLWC 2026 Eligibility for Nations

Further to the July 2024 Board resolution which confirmed that only full members would be eligible for menís RLWC2026 qualification, the IRL Board has confirmed that March 31, 2024 will be the deadline for all national federation eligibility for the 2026 event. That means:

  • Only IRL full members on March 31, 2024 will be eligible for the Menís World Cup.
  • Only IRL full and affiliate members on March 31, 2024 will be eligible for the Womenís and Wheelchair World Cups.

    2029 Wheelchair World Cup

    After Julyís meeting in Singapore, the IRL Board announced it would work to determine where the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup best fitted in the international calendar. It has now been agreed that the best position for the Wheelchair World Cup, after 2026, is in 2029 - between the Womenís and Menís World Cups Ė and every four years thereafter. This decision will enhance IRL intellectual property by ensuring the three flagship World Cups are given equal prominence in consecutive years, increase the attractiveness of IRL commercial sponsorships and provide more high-quality content for the IRLís broadcast partners.

    Ref - IRL [Viewed 7 Oct 2023] / FN-30

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