- By Chris Jones
- BBC rugby union correspondent
The 2027 Rugby World Cup will be a “more compact” tournament which will lead to “more interest and bigger audiences”, says World Rugby boss Alan Gilpin.
World Rugby have announced the global showpiece will expand to 24 teams in Australia in four years’ time.
With six pools of four teams, there will be a shorter pool stage and an extra round of knockout matches.
Gilpin says it is the “right time” to expand the men’s competition.
“At some point you just have to take that leap,” Gilpin told BBC Sport.
“Australia is going to be a great host, with great stadium infrastructure and great infrastructure for teams.
“It will be a format that will allow us to have a more compact tournament, with six pools of four teams moving into a round of 16, more knockout content which is what fans would love to see, and provide some really good opportunities for more interest and bigger audiences.”
Speaking on the day World Rugby announced a reshaped global calendar, Gilpin says more regular competition for the emerging nations from 2026 onwards will help prepare sides for the World Cup and limit mismatches in the pool stages.
“We are going to make the move to expand, and provide more opportunities for more nations to qualify for, and ultimately play in a World Cup,” he said.
“And then [we will] work with those teams to create as much competitiveness as we can. And these things sit together.
“The idea of a more regular Nations Cup competition, with pathways from regions into that competition and providing the right type of competition more regularly, is going to allow teams to be better prepared. 2027 feels like the right time to make that move.”
Nations Championship ‘not a closed shop’
Gilpin has also moved to allay fears the new ‘Nations Championship’ competition, which will run every other year from 2026 onwards, will be a “closed shop” which will only benefit the elite rugby nations.
The new competition will be made up of the sides from the Six Nations and The Rugby Championship, as well as Japan and Fiji.
While the 12 nations will play against each other for the first two stagings of the tournament, in 2030 there will be a promotion and relegation play-off, allowing a team from outside the 12 to join from 2032.
The play-off will take place on a fourth weekend in the November window, on the same weekend as a ‘Grand Final’ to determine a Nations Championship winner.
“Those top 12 will play in a division one effectively, establish that competition – but that is already two teams [in Japan and Fiji] that don’t [currently] have access to that level of competition on a regular basis,” Gilpin added.
“The next 12 will play in a second division, regional competitions will promote and relegate teams into that second division, so that is the important part of the pathway.
“Then from 2030 there will be relegation and promotion between division two and division one. So in time a really historic opportunity that doesn’t currently exist.”