World Rugby has announced Rugby World Cup 2027 in Australia is set to feature 24 teams.
The changes were confirmed on Tuesday (local time), with the competition expanding for the first time since 1999.
The new make-up will be six pools of four teams, with a round of 16 added before the quarter-finals.
The top two teams from each pool will qualify, along with the top four third-place finishes.
As a result, the tournament window will reduce from seven weeks to six whilst maintaining the mandatory rest days between games.
Already 12 teams have secured their place in the 2027 event, including Australia, with the top three sides from 2023 locked in.
The event will be pushed back from its current time slot, set to start on October 1 and finish November 13.
"If we are to become a truly global sport, we must create greater relevance, opportunity and competitiveness to attract new fans and grow value," World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said in a statement.
“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.
“The decision to expand Rugby World Cup 2027 to 24 teams is logical and the right thing to do.
"Underpinned by a new global calendar that increases certainty and opportunity, we are focused on raising standards, closing the gaps and creating a spectacle that fans demand to see.
"With its love of sport and major events, Australia is the perfect place to do just that.”
World Rugby also confirmed they will draw the Pools as late as possible (earmarked for January 2026), after coming under criticism for conducting the 2023 pools almost three years before the event in December 2020.
This led to three of the top five teams drawn (Ireland, South Africa, Scotland) in the same pool for the event in France.
“Today’s decision is the culmination of a process that began in May 2022 with a new Rugby World Cup hosting model, greater collaboration on reform of the international calendar and recognition that the sport needed to evolve," World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said.
“A reduced pool phase with a more regular cadence of matches and the introduction of a round of 16 makes for a compelling and competitive pool phase where every match counts.
"To be able to achieve this new format in a reduced window while preserving important player welfare considerations is a huge step forward for the game and great for fans and players.”
“SANZAAR also welcomes the agreement on the playing window for the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia and the expansion of the tournament to 24 teams," SANZAAR and RA Chairman Hamish McLennan added.
"This aligns with the sports ambitions to increase the global competitiveness, reach, impact and value of international rugby."
RWC 2027 at a glance
- Rugby World Cup 2027 will be hosted between 1 October and 13 November
- The tournament will be expanded from 20 to 24 teams
- Top three from each pool at Rugby World Cup 2023 automatically qualified (Australia, Argentina, England, France, Fiji, Italy, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa Scotland, Wales)
- Reduced six-week (seven weekend) Rugby World Cup window approved, supporting welfare, entertainment and value imperatives
- Pool phase reduced from five to four weeks
- Round of 16 to be introduced with top two teams from each pool automatically qualifying along with the top four third-placed teams
- Decision provides certainty for all stakeholders and maintains Rugby World Cup’s position as the jewel in the crown of the international calendar
- Details of the qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2027 will be determined following a full review of France 2023 and consultation with unions and regions.