World Cup boosted to 16 teams for 2021

The World Cup format will take on a new look in 2021.

An additional two teams will take place in the main competition, with the competition expanding to 16 teams in 2021. The teams will be placed in four separate groups of four, a substantial difference to previous years which has seen cross fixtures between groups C and D. Further changes will see the top eight teams seeded, meaning the top four nations will all be in separate groups, unlike in previous years where two of the elite nations have locked horns in the group stage.

The top two teams from each group will advance to the quarter-finals.

England will be in Group A and will open the tournament, with the hosts also set to open the women’s and wheelchair tournaments, which will feature eight teams in two groups of four.

Australia, New Zealand and Tonga will be the other top seeds, with Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Fiji and Lebanon all in pot two. The remaining two pots will be determined on world rankings, with France and Wales confirmed entries to the competition after they qualified through the European Championships.

The women’s tournament will begin on men’s quarter-final weekend, as will the wheelchair tournament.

The draw for all three tournaments will be held on November 27th.

Jon Dutton, Chief Executive of the RLWC2021, said: “One of our main aims was to hold the most inclusive Rugby League World Cup of all time and I’m delighted that we have that confirmed. With England opening each of our three tournaments, it will be a fantastic spectacle.

“It was important for us to demonstrate a commitment to tier 2 nations and growing maturity for the World Cup with a clearer format.

“I am delighted that we have worked with RLIF board to be able to share the format and structure of our three tournaments at this early stage.”

Nigel Wood, Chief Executive of the RLIF, added: “The RLIF board are very impressed with the progress that RLWC2021 is making. To be able to announce this news across all three competitions, three years before their respective World Cup Finals, demonstrates further progress for the international game and we look forward to ongoing collaboration with the RLWC2021 organisers.”