Expansion to 24 Teams Starting with 2027 Rugby World Cup

Noah Strang
By:
Noah Strang
26/10/2023
News
BettingTop10 News
Rugby World Cup expanding to 24 teams in 2027

Expansion, Schedule Reduction to Change World Cup Landscape 

News Insights

  • There will now be 24 teams instead of 20
  • Four new teams will be determined by a review of the World Cup happening in France
  • The tournament will start in October for the first time since 2003
  • Australia hosting 2027 tournament and U.S. will host 2031 World Cup

The current Rugby World Cup is happening in France right now, but the field will look a little different when 2027 rolls around. That’s because there will be an expansion to 27 teams when the event is next held, this time in Australia. 

Though the change from 20 teams to 24 teams (up from the original 16 when the Rugby World Cup began) is the biggest news, it is not the only change coming down the pike. Along with more featured teams, there will be a week less to play and an extra knockout round. 

The tournament will begin October 1, 2027, and extend through November 13, 2027. This is the first time that the Rugby World Cup will begin in October since 2003. Coincidently enough, that was the last time that the event was held in Australia. 

Fans in Australia are excited to see the event come to their country. With more teams, they will be able to see even more players hit the field.  

Reduced Schedule 

The other big news in addition to adding four more teams to the pool is the reduced schedule. The pool stage will now be just four weeks. That pool stage will feed into a brand-new round of 16 stage. The entirety of the tournament will be played over six weeks rather than the traditional seven. 

Each pool – six of them – will have four teams apiece. The top two teams in each pool will then advance, as will the four best third-placed teams. With player welfare in mind, World Rugby has promised that it will maintain the current turnaround between matches. 

The draw for the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia will take place in January 2026. It has to be after the November test window in order to be fairer since most teams will have played at that point. Which begs the question: “Why not January 2027?” 

Why Not Earlier? 

There was initially discussion of having the draw in January 2027, some 10 months before the tournament. World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin commented on the matter, saying, “You would put ticket sales at risk and that puts the financing of the tournament at risk. Fans would be very frustrated with that outcome, of not being able to plan with any certainty with less than a year to a Rugby World Cup.” 

Gilpin also said that the January 2026 draw period came as a compromise. This way, it isn’t too late nor too early, which wound up being an issue for the Rugby World Cup happening in France. The draw was held three years ago, back in December 2020. Big changes in the world ranking wound up creating an imbalance where the top five teams found themselves in one half of the draw.

Expansion was Anticipated 

Though the change from 20 teams to 24 teams (up from the original 16 when the Rugby World Cup began) is the biggest news, it is not the only change coming down the pike. Along with more featured teams, there will be a week less to play and an extra knockout round. 

The tournament will begin October 1, 2027, and extend through November 13, 2027. This is the first time that the Rugby World Cup will begin in October since 2003. Coincidently enough, that was the last time that the event was held in Australia. 

Fans in Australia are excited to see the event come to their country. With more teams, they will be able to see even more players hit the field.  

Reduced Schedule 

The other big news in addition to adding four more teams to the pool is the reduced schedule. The pool stage will now be just four weeks. That pool stage will feed into a brand-new round of 16 stage. The entirety of the tournament will be played over six weeks rather than the traditional seven. 

Each pool – six of them – will have four teams apiece. The top two teams in each pool will then advance, as will the four best third-placed teams. With player welfare in mind, World Rugby has promised that it will maintain the current turnaround between matches. 

The draw for the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia will take place in January 2026. It has to be after the November test window in order to be fairer since most teams will have played at that point. Which begs the question: “Why not January 2027?” 

Why Not Earlier? 

There was initially discussion of having the draw in January 2027, some 10 months before the tournament. World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin commented on the matter, saying, “You would put ticket sales at risk and that puts the financing of the tournament at risk. Fans would be very frustrated with that outcome, of not being able to plan with any certainty with less than a year to a Rugby World Cup.” 

Gilpin also said that the January 2026 draw period came as a compromise. This way, it isn’t too late nor too early, which wound up being an issue for the Rugby World Cup happening in France. The draw was held three years ago, back in December 2020. Big changes in the world ranking wound up creating an imbalance where the top five teams found themselves in one half of the draw. 

Expansion was Anticipated 

It is not entirely surprising that the field is expanding from 20 teams to 24. The major reason has to do with the United States failing to qualify for this year’s World Cup in France. Why is this important? Well, the U.S. will be hosting the 2031 men’s Rugby World Cup and will be automatically qualified as host. 

World Rugby, however, does not want to run the risk of the U.S. not qualifying for the 2027 games and wind up going 12 years between World Cup appearances. Rugby Australia put in their bid for 2027 based on the 20-team tournament but was perfectly fine with the expansion as “a fantastic outcome.” 

This decision to expand Rugby World Cup 2027 to 24 teams is logical and the right thing to do,” said World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont. “We must create greater relevance, opportunity and competitiveness to attract new fans and grow value. This incredible Rugby World Cup 2023 tournament has demonstrated the passion and potential that lies beyond the top 10 or 12 nations, if we think big and think inclusive. It is not acceptable to accept the status quo. Not acceptable to do nothing.” 

Though the move appears to be a major one on the surface, it could be best for the long-term growth of the game. Having the United States host the World Cup in 2031 will be another big step in that direction as well.