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World Rugby announces new Women’s World Cup qualification route

World Rugby has today (Friday) announced details of a new qualification pathway for the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup, which will be held in New Zealand.

For the first time in the tournament’s history, a repechage competition will offer a pathway for teams who have not automatically qualified for the Women’s World Cup.

The 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup will mark the first time the tournament has been held in the southern hemisphere. New Zealand will be seeking to defend its title on home soil after winning the 2017 event in Ireland.

The top seven teams from the 2017 event (New Zealand, England, USA, France, Canada, Australia and Wales) have already secured automatic qualification for the 2021 competition.

Under the proposed pathway, non-qualified teams will compete in new and existing regional tournaments. The winners of these tournaments (save for South America) will secure a place at the World Cup.

Qualification pathway tournaments will be held in Oceania, Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. The expanded Oceania Women’s Rugby Championship this year will directly qualify a team for the World Cup.

A standalone tournament will also be held in Europe for the first time in September 2020. Ireland, Italy and Scotland will compete at this event, along with the winner of the 2020 Rugby Europe women’s championship. The winner of the event will qualify for the World Cup.

In Asia, the winner of the existing Asia Rugby Women’s Championship in 2020 will directly qualify for the World Cup, while in Africa, a new women’s competition will be held this August and serve as a direct qualifier.

In South America, a qualification tournament will be held in 2020. The winner of this will progress to a playoff between the second-placed team from the Africa regional tournament to determine the fourth team to compete in the repechage event.

The final team to qualify for the World Cup will be determined through the new repechage tournament in 2020. The tournament will comprise the second-placed teams in the Asia, Europe and Oceania regional tournaments, and the winner of the aforementioned playoff between a South American team and the second-placed team in the Africa qualifier.