World Rugby has announced a host of format changes for the 2021 Women’s World Cup to coincide with the launch of the host selection process for the national team tournament.
The tournament will feature a revised match schedule, with the addition of a quarter-final stage and longer rest periods between matches. Squad sizes will also increase from 28 to 30 players in a move designed to enhance player welfare and maintain competitiveness.
World Rugby has confirmed that the 12-team competition will remain in the short term, although the tournament window will increase from 23 days to 35 days. The changes mean that classification matches, which had previously been played by teams that did not reach the semi-final stage, will be scrapped.
The 2017 Women’s World Cup, co-hosted by Ireland and Northern Ireland, was the best-attended, most-viewed and most socially-engaged edition of the event to date, and World Rugby is keen to capitalise on the growth of the women’s game.
Countries interested in bidding for the 2021 tournament have until May 31 to formally express an interest, with bid documents to be distributed the following day. Bid responses will be submitted to World Rugby by August 10 before the organisation’s council selects a host on November 14.
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said: “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.”