World Rugby reveals plans for new Nations League competition and expanded World Cup from 2027

World Rugby reveals plans for new Nations League competition and expanded World Cup from 2027

Global chiefs hope rugby’s largest reform since the game turned professional will be a “quantum leap” moment for the sport.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont insisted the deal to align the game’s global calendar can revolutionise the sport and create greater balance at Test level.

The global calendar talks have rumbled on since 2007, but are finally at the point of agreement, after World Rugby council votes passed plans to redraw the Test game.

A new Nations League competition will come into force in 2026, with the Six Nations teams in one half and the Rugby Championship teams plus two more Southern Hemisphere nations in the other side. Japan and Fiji will likely join New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina in the southern six.

The competition will have a bi-annual final, with the winners of the two halves of the draw. A second-level competition comprising 12 more teams will also be put together.

At the same time, the World Cup will be expanded to 24 teams for the 2027 tournament in Australia. Six pools of four teams and a knockout round of 16 will allow the tournament to be condensed to six weeks, which will boost tournament momentum.

World Rugby have also pledged that the new format will give lesser nations 50 per cent more matches against the top teams.

“This is the last piece of the jigsaw, and a new era is about to begin, to support the many and not the few,” said Beaumont.

“All boats will rise together.”

The World Rugby vote was close, but still claimed the two-thirds majority required to pass. Chief executive Alan Gilpin admitted not all parties are completely happy, but insisted this radical change will benefit the entire sport in the long-run.

“When we finished the World Cup in France 16 years ago, we were involved in the very same discussions, how do we make the global calendar more compelling,” said Gilpin.

“And we weren’t able to do it 16 years ago. This set of decisions have required a huge amount of compromise, movement and collaboration.

“We’ve been able to land on something that’s been really elusive for rugby for a long time. We have a better future for men’s and women’s 15s rugby, with more opportunities and more certainties for more nations than ever before.”