• Women’s Rugby World Cup to host a Repechage tournament for the first time in its history
  • Process offers more unions qualification opportunities including an exciting new European and expanded Oceania competition
  • The top seven placed teams from WRWC 2017 have already secured automatic qualification
  • Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021 is the ninth edition of the tournament
  • The 12-team competition will be hosted by New Zealand, marking the first time it will take place in the Southern Hemisphere

World Rugby today confirmed an exciting new qualification pathway for Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021 which has universality and opportunity at heart.

The pathway for teams who have not automatically qualified, offers opportunities for more unions to secure a place at the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021 with the addition of a Repechage tournament for the first time in the competition’s history.

The top seven placed teams from the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017; New Zealand, England, USA, France, Canada, Australia and Wales, have already secured automatic qualification for the competition in 2021.

Under the pathway, non-qualified teams will compete in new and existing regional tournaments, maximising international spread and exposure, with the winners of each tournament (save for South America) automatically securing a place at Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021.

Regional Women’s Rugby World Cup qualification pathway tournaments;

  • Oceania: The expanded Oceania Women’s Rugby Championship 2019 will act as the WRWC 2021 qualifier with the winner qualifying directly to WRWC 2021
  • Rugby Europe: For the first time in Europe, a standalone qualification tournament will be held in September 2020. Ireland, Italy and Scotland will be joined by the winner of the 2020 Rugby Europe women’s championship with the winner qualifying directly to WRWC 2021
  • Asia Rugby: The existing Asia Rugby Women’s Championship 2020 will act as the WRWC 2021 qualifier with the winner qualifying directly to WRWC 2021
  • Rugby Africa: A new women’s competition to be held in August 2019 will act as the WRWC 2021 qualifier with the winner qualifying directly to WRWC 2021
  • South America: A WRWC 2021 qualification competition will be held in 2020. The winner will progress to a play-off between the second-placed team from the Africa regional tournament to determine the fourth team to compete in the Repechage.

The final team to qualify for WRWC 2021 will be decided via the new Repechage tournament, which will take place in 2020. The tournament will comprise of the second placed teams in the Asia, Europe and Oceania regional tournaments and the winner of the play-off between South America and second-placed team from the Africa regional qualifier.

Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021 is the ninth edition of the tournament and the first to be held in the Southern Hemisphere after New Zealand were awarded hosting rights by World Rugby in November of last year.

World Rugby Sir Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “We are committed to accelerating the development of the women’s game at international level. Last year we announced significant remodelling of the Women’s Rugby World Cup format to ensure that the competition continues to be as competitive as possible, while also continuing to engage fans worldwide.

“The introduction of a new qualification pathway and Repechage tournament for the first time in the tournament’s history, is another significant and exciting step forward, that will offer more unions an opportunity to qualify for the World Cup in 2021.”

Last year World Rugby announced a progressive remodelling of Women’s Rugby World Cup format ahead of 2021 to boost team and fan experience alike which included:

  • A revised match schedule guaranteeing longer rest periods which will greatly benefit player welfare
  • The addition of the quarter-final stage to allow teams a further opportunity to play for a higher position.
  • With the longer rest periods and additional play-off stage, the total tournament window will increase from 23 to 35 days
  • Furthering World Rugby’s commitment to prioritising player welfare by increasing tournament squad sizes from 28 to 30 players.

The schedule of regional qualification tournaments and the Women’s Rugby World Cup Repechage will be announced later this year.

Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 was a record-breaker on many levels, furthering the reach, engagement and profile of the women’s game. It recorded a total of 45 million video views and had a total reach of more than 70 million throughout the five match days.

More than 750,000 fans from 230 countries and territories also visited the official website www.rwcwomens.com, attracting 58 per cent of new fans, setting new records for engagement of the multi-language content for a Women’s Rugby World Cup.