by allyn freeman
MEN’S WORLD CUP EXPANSION
The Rugby World Cup slotted for Australia in 2027 will expand to 24-teams from past years’ total of 20. All concur this is mainly money motivated, inviting four additional fifteens whose presence should generate increased stadium ticket sales, larger television viewership, and, importantly, greater tourist hospitality revenues to the hosting nation.
World Rugby also will benefit with larger profits from the event coming via tickets and broadcast sales. The quadrennial RWC provides the lion’s share of World Rugby’s operational budget for the following four-years after the event.
This adjustment is good news for those tier two nations that did not qualify for RWC France. Foremost is the United States whose disappointing losses against Uruguay and Chile in the qualifying American regionals, and the final defeat to Portugal in the repechage round, ended the Eagles hopes of competing in RWC 2023. Other potential countries that could benefit from the four team expansion list Canada, Spain, Russia, Kenya, and Hong Kong.
A reduced 2027 four-week RWC pool stage will result in a round of 16 teams as the entire tournament will be played in six weeks (seven weekends), one week less than in the past events. The format will consist of six pools of four teams each. The top two nations from each pool (12) advance into the round of 16, the final four places given to the best third place records.
WOMEN’S WXV TOURNAMENTS
The major 2023 women’s rugby initiative saw the successful inauguration of the new WXV October tournament. The objective was to provide more international events among similarly tiered fifteens. The setup placed eighteen sides in three events – WXV 1, WXV 2, and WXV 3 – determined by World Rugby rankings. One winner emerged from each pool of six.
WXV 1 WXV 2 WXV 3
Winner England 3-0 Scotland 3-0 Ireland 3-0
Others Canada 2-1 Italy 3-0 Fiji 2-1
Australia 2-1 Japan 1-2 Spain 2-1
France 1-2 S.Africa 1-2 Kazakhstan 1-2
N.Z. 1-2 USA 1-2 Kenya 1-2
Loser Wales 0-3 Samoa 0-3 Colombia 0-3
In their first W.XV 2 match, the USA Eagles (#10th)led Samoa (#16th) 31-14 at the 65th-minute mark but allowed the Islanders to score 12 points, eventually, winning 36-26. The team then lost to Scotland 24-14, and, finally, to Italy in the third match 30-8. Both seasoned Six Nation XVs outplayed their USA opponent. There will be promotion and relegation as this event continues over time.
MEN’S TWO-TIERED EVENT
Perhaps the most revolutionary tournament idea is the proposed “Nations Cup” that will create 24 teams in two divisions of twelve teams each. The new competition would begin in 2026 with promotion and relegation not commencing until 2030. The tournament would occur in years when there is no British/Irish Lions Tour and when there is no Rugby World Cup.
There would be a premiere league of the highest ranked countries, which would include the Six Nations (England, Wales, Ireland, France, Italy, and Scotland), the four Rugby Championship sides (New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and Argentina), plus Japan and Fiji.
The lesser ranked, second tier division might feature Samoa, Tonga, Spain, Georgia, Portugal, USA, Canada, Uruguay, Chile, Russia, Namibia, and an unnamed twelfth fifteen. For the annual top three European teams, Samoa, and Tonga, this creates a first time window to advance via promotion to the highest stage of global rugby competition.
The top division calendar would schedule one-off cross-hemisphere events between July and November. The northern hemisphere teams would travel south in July to play three Tests. The Rugby Championship southern hemisphere’s four sides, plus Fiji, and Japan would come north in November. A grand final would feature the teams that ended in first and second places.
PARIS OLYMPICS 2024
The 2024 Paris Olympic rugby schedule has been posted. This represents the third iteration of women’s and men’s rugby in its sevens format return to the Olympiad (Brazil 2016 and Japan 2020). The matches will take place at the end of July. All contests will be inside the 80,000 seat Stade de France where France plays its home games. Previous Sevens events in Paris on the HSBC circuit were played in the Stade Jean-Bouin, a 20,000 seat stadium.
Men: Dates – July 25, 26 and 27 (The gold medal match)
Women: Dates – July 28, 29 and 30 (The gold medal match)
The 12-team format features three pools of four teams each, the first two finishers advance to the quarter finals along with the two teams with the best pool records. In 2020, the USA Men advanced with a 2-1 pool record, and lost to Great Britain 26-21 in the quarter finals. Fiji was the gold medal winner for the second straight tournament. The USA Women went undefeated (3-0) in pool play, losing 21-12 also to Great Britain in the quarters. New Zealand’s Black Ferns won the gold.
The rarely seen Women’s teams of Colombia and Kazakhstan competed in the WXV 3 tournament. (Photo – Colombia player in her “bee striped” jersey.)