World Rugby today confirmed an exciting new qualification pathway for the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup which has universality and opportunity at heart.
The IRFU hosted the Women’s World Cup in 2017 and despite a disappointing run for the home team, the tournament proved to be a huge success with New Zealand crowned champions at Kingspan Stadium after an incredible final game against England.
Ireland, who finished outside the automatic qualifying places, will have to qualify via a new Rugby Europe tournament to take place in 2020.
The pathway for teams who have not automatically qualified offers opportunities for more Unions to secure a place at the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, with the addition of a Repechage tournament for the first time in the competition’s history.
The top seven placed teams from the last World Cup – New Zealand, England, the USA, France, Canada, Australia and Wales – have already secured automatic qualification for the competition in 2021.
Under the pathway, non-qualified teams will compete in new and existing regional tournaments, maximising international spread and exposure, with the winners of each tournament (save for South America) automatically securing a place at the World Cup in two years’ time.
REGIONAL WOMEN’S RUGBY WORLD CUP QUALIFICATION PATHWAY TOURNAMENTS:
Oceania: The expanded 2019 Oceania Women’s Rugby Championship will act as the WRWC 2021 qualifier with the winning team qualifying directly to WRWC 2021
Rugby Europe: For the first time in Europe, a standalone qualification tournament will be held in September 2020. Ireland, Italy and Scotland will be joined by the winners of the 2020 Rugby Europe Women’s Championship, with the winning team qualifying directly to WRWC 2021
Asia Rugby: The existing 2020 Asia Rugby Women’s Championship will act as the WRWC 2021 qualifier with the winners qualifying directly to WRWC 2021
Rugby Africa: A new Women’s competition to be held in August 2019 will act as the WRWC 2021 qualifier with the winning team qualifying directly to WRWC 2021
South America: A WRWC 2021 qualification competition will be held in 2020. The winners will progress to a play-off between the second-placed team from the Africa regional tournament to determine the fourth side to compete in the Repechage
The final team to qualify for WRWC 2021 will be decided via the new Repechage tournament, which will take place in 2020. The tournament will comprise of the second placed teams in the Asia, Europe and Oceania regional tournaments and the winners of the play-off between South America and the second-placed team from the Africa regional qualifier.
The 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup is the ninth edition of the tournament and the first to be held in the southern Hemisphere after New Zealand were awarded hosting rights by World Rugby in November of last year.
World Rugby Chairman, Sir Bill Beaumont, said:
We are committed to accelerating the development of the Women’s game at international level. Last year we announced significant remodelling of the Women’s Rugby World Cup format to ensure that the competition continues to be as competitive as possible, while also continuing to engage fans worldwide.
“The introduction of a new qualification pathway and Repechage tournament, for the first time in the tournament’s history, is another significant and exciting step forward that will offer more Unions an opportunity to qualify for the World Cup in 2021.”
Last year World Rugby announced a progressive remodelling of the Women’s Rugby World Cup format ahead of 2021 to boost team and fan experience alike which included:
– A revised match schedule guaranteeing longer rest periods which will greatly benefit player welfare
– The addition of the quarter-final stage to allow teams a further opportunity to play for a higher position
– With the longer rest periods and additional play-off stage, the total tournament window will increase from 23 to 35 days
– Furthering World Rugby’s commitment to prioritising player welfare by increasing tournament squad sizes from 28 to 30 players
The schedule of regional qualification tournaments and the Women’s Rugby World Cup Repechage will be announced later this year.
The 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland was a record-breaker on many levels, furthering the reach, engagement and profile of the Women’s game. It recorded a total of 45 million video views and had a total reach of more than 70 million throughout the five match days.
More than 750,000 fans from 230 countries and territories also visited the official website, www.rwcwomens.com, attracting 58% of new fans, setting new records for engagement of the multi-language content for a Women’s Rugby World Cup.