RLWC delayed to 2026, cut to ten teams and to be played in Southern Hemisphere

The 2021 Rugby League World Cup, held in late 2022 in England was the biggest and arguably best World Cup to be held so far with the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments all running at the same times, providing a huge boost for the sport.

Given how rarely we see international rugby league it is a very precious commodity and so when it was announced that the French World Cup in 2025 would not be held with the host nation pulling out, it was a massively worrying update and potentially a key step back.

It was the unclear what would happen with the 2025 World Cup as potential bids were referenced from New Zealand and Pacific Island nations, before Qatar was mentioned as a shock host nation.

The IRL have now met in Singapore this past weekend and plotted out a plan for the international game with the next World Cup being one of the items atop the agenda,

It’s now been confirmed that the next World Cup will be pushed back to 2026 and will be held in the southern hemisphere.

The IRL have stated that the details of who will host, and which teams have bid, is currently confidential so as to not prevent a possible collapse and ensure the rival bidding host nations can compete fairly for sponsorship and planning.

A statement on the IRL website has confirmed the news among a whole host of other big announcements.

Among the ‘key points’, it was bullet-pointed that there would be:

“Change to World Cups cycle, with the next World Cup for Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair teams to be staged in 2026.

“A World Cup every two years, with a stand-alone Women’s World Cup in 2028, followed by the Men’s World Cup in 2030.

“No World Cup 9s in the calendar as IRL focuses on developing 13-a-side and Wheelchair games.”

This was further expanded upon in the statement and then discussed by the IRL Chair Troy Grant.

“The next Rugby League World Cup for Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair teams has been moved to 2026 and will be staged in the Southern Hemisphere after France’s withdrawal as hosts for the scheduled 2025 tournament.

“A stand-alone Women’s World Cup will be staged in 2028, with the next Men’s World Cup, after RLWC2026, to be held in 2030.

“Further details about those tournaments and other international fixtures in the next five years will be announced by participating nations in coming weeks after consultation with IRL member nations.

“There will also be announcements about the International Calendar beyond 2027 during the international window later this year.”

Grant said: “I saw first-hand during RLWC2021 in England last year how much it means for players in each of our three disciplines to be able to represent their country of birth or heritage, put on that jersey and play with such pride for their family and nations.”

He also confirmed to media that the men’s World Cup would be cut to ten teams, down from 16 in 2022, and would follow a format seen at the 2008 World Cup featuring two groups of five.