World Cup 2026 venue to be revealed as new rules introduced as part of international revival

International Rugby League is set to announce the hosts of IRL Rugby League World Cup 2026 this month and is progressing details of next year’s inaugural World Series to determine final places at the tournament.

The IRL has previously announced that RLWC2026, featuring men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments, would be played in the Southern Hemisphere at the end of the 2026 NRL and Super League seasons.

The hosts of World Series 2025 are scheduled to be announced later this year, with a tender process to commence in August.

The deadline for bid submissions to host the standalone 2028 women’s World Cup, 2029 wheelchair World Cup and 2030 men’s World Cup has been pushed back to February 18, 2025, due to factors out of the tenderers’ control, and with the support of all tenderers. The tendering nations for all three world cups will also be publicly announced this month. Tenderers were invited to submit intermediate bid progress reports in June.

The World Cups and inaugural World Series were among the main topics of discussion at the IRL Board meeting on Tuesday, which also approved new international laws for immediate implementation, including:

– An 18th player for HIA’s or injuries caused by foul play (since October 2023 there has been a dispensation in place to use an 18th player in international matches based on medical advice, but now it will be written into law);

– A penalty to be awarded for infringements at the play the ball by the defensive team within 40m of their tryline, rather than a repeat set;

– Awarding of a full penalty for scrum infringements, rather than a differential penalty.

– Under the new international laws, an 18th Player Replacement can be activated:

– Where two of a team’s players in a match have been designated ineligible to return to the field by the team medical officer following a head injury assessment;

– where one of a team’s players is designated ineligible to return to the field by the Team Medical Officer due to any injury (head or otherwise), where the relevant injury was caused by the foul play of an opposition player; and the opposition player was sin-binned or dismissed from the field as a result of the foul play.

– The other changes are designed to discourage defensive teams from offending when play is at the opposite end of the field or in scrums, with the introduction of penalties for the following offences:

– Where a team interferes with the smooth process of the play the ball or where their markers split early to close the play down, the referee will immediately signal that the team in possession has another set of six tackles, except where the tackle is affected within the 40-metre zone from the goal-line of the team in possession, where a penalty will be awarded;

– In respect of misconduct at the scrum, the Referee shall award a penalty. The penalty applies to all players, even those outside the scrum, who should be penalised where they offend. A penalty is awarded for an offence which occurs before the scrum is properly formed.

The IRL Board also finalised its governance reform recommendations, which will be circulated to members.

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