Exciting changes for Women's Rugby World Cup 2021

Getty Images     11 May 2018     Getty Images

Building on the success of a record-breaking Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 in Ireland, the changes, approved by the Rugby World Cup Board following a comprehensive tournament review, include a revised match schedule, with the addition of a quarter-final stage and longer rest periods between matches, and an increase in squad size to enhance player welfare and ensure the tournament continues to deliver compelling, competitive rugby. 


Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 was the best-attended, most-viewed and most socially-engaged ever, setting new standards for the tournament and extending the reach of the game around the world.

As a major driver in the expansion of the global game, women’s rugby is experiencing unprecedented growth. World Rugby is determined to further the impact of its flagship women’s tournament, with the format amendments expected to boost the experience for players and fans alike.

The 12-team format will remain in the short term while World Rugby focuses on increasing the competitiveness of the 15s game via the competitions and high performance strands of the women’s plan. However, the revised match schedule guaranteeing longer rest periods – four days between pool matches, and five or six days during the knock-out rounds – will greatly benefit player welfare by aiding recovery and preparation, while the addition of the quarter-final stage will 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.

Following feedback from teams and players, and World Rugby’s commitment to prioritising player welfare, the review also concluded that squad size should increase by two – from 28 to 30 players.

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “The launch of the host selection process for Women's Rugby World Cup 2021 is an exciting milestone and follows a fantastic 2017 for women’s rugby. The exceptional Women's Rugby World Cup in Ireland was the best attended of all time, inspiring on and off the field, and underscored why the event is such an attractive hosting proposition for unions and nations.

“We want to keep building the momentum, which is why we are introducing these changes to the format for the 2021 process. By ensuring an even more competitive and exciting tournament in the future, women’s rugby can continue to play an instrumental role in driving forward the development of the game and significantly broadening rugby’s global fan base.”

Following a special Ireland 2017 tournament, there has been strong public expressions of interest from national member unions keen to take part in the process.

The deadline for expressions of interest to host the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup is May 31 with the host nation announced on 14 November.