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World Cup 2026 venue to be revealed as new rules introduced in international shake-up

Rugby League World Cup

Last year, when the International Rugby League board confirmed the upcoming international calendar and planned for the next decade, it was announced that the World Cup would be hosted in 2026 with a new host to be selected after the withdrawal of host nation France. It’s now been announced that the new hosts will be confirmed later this month.

International Rugby League has taken a huge blow lately with the test match between England and France highlighting the fragility of the game on the international level, at least in the northern hemisphere. It’s led to calls by many for change with prominent figure Gus Gould, Director of Rugby for Canterbury Bulldogs, calling on the NRL to become the sole governing body.

For now, the IRL still exists and they’ve confirmed today that the announcement for the 2026 World Cup venue and qualifying details will be revealed later this month. They have also shared details of new laws that will be introduced effective immediately for the international game with the off-season games such as the Pacific Championships and the England and Samoa tests being the first time those laws will be enforced.

2026 World Cup hosts set to be announced

As an Australia player, James Tedesco, of NRL side Sydney Roosters, lifts the Rugby League World Cup 2021 trophy with teammates.

Credit: Imago Images

There was huge disappointment when France had their bid to host the World Cup withdrawn with the new government opting not to spend the money on the event, despite finding the funds for the 2023 Rugby Union World Cup and this summer’s Paris Olympics.

Immediately, the IRL were tasked with finding a new host with New Zealand reportedly bidding for the event and now the IRL have announced that an update will be provided by the end of July as they shared a statement following their board meeting that was held on Tuesday.

It read: “International Rugby League is set to announce the hosts of IRL Rugby League World Cup 2026 this month and is progressing details of next year’s inaugural World Series to determine final places at the tournament.

“The IRL has previously announced that RLWC2026, featuring men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments, would be played in the Southern Hemisphere at the end of the 2026 NRL and Super League seasons.”

There was also confirmation that the deadline to submit applications to host the standalone Women’s World Cup in 2028, 2029 Wheelchair World Cup and 2030 Men’s World Cup will end on February 18th 2025.

New laws introduced for international game

Credit: Imago Images

Other items on the agenda included the introduction of new laws that will be implemented immediately. They were as follows below.

“An 18th player for HIA’s or injuries caused by foul play (since October 2023 there has been a dispensation in place to use an 18th player in international matches based on medical advice, but now it will be written into law)

“A penalty to be awarded for infringements at the play the ball by the defensive team within 40m of their tryline, rather than a repeat set

“Awarding of a full penalty for scrum infringements, rather than a differential penalty.

It was then explained that under the new international laws, an 18th Player Replacement can be activated in the following two situations.

“Where two of a team’s players in a match have been designated ineligible to return to the field by the team medical officer following a head injury assessment;

“Where one of a team’s players is designated ineligible to return to the field by the Team Medical Officer due to any injury (head or otherwise), where the relevant injury was caused by the foul play of an opposition player; and the opposition player was sin-binned or dismissed from the field as a result of the foul play.”

The other law changes are designed to discourage defensive teams from offending when play is at the opposite end of the field or in scrums, with the introduction of penalties for the following offences:

“Where a team interferes with the smooth process of the play the ball or where their markers split early to close the play down, the referee will immediately signal that the team in possession has another set of six tackles, except where the tackle is affected within the 40-metre zone from the goal-line of the team in possession, where a penalty will be awarded;

“In respect of misconduct at the scrum, the Referee shall award a penalty. The penalty applies to all players, even those outside the scrum, who should be penalised where they offend. A penalty is awarded for an offence which occurs before the scrum is properly formed.”

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