World Cup hosts to be revealed

INTERNATIONAL Rugby League say they will announce the hosts of the 2026 World Cup later this month, with Australia favourites to get the nod following the governing body’s tender process.
The tournament will include men’s (ten teams), women’s (eight) and wheelchair (eight) sections.
But all three will then become stand-alone events, with the deadline for bid submissions to host the women’s in 2028, wheelchair in 2029 and men’s in 2030 pushed back to February 18, 2025.
The various applicants for each tournament will also be announced this month.
Meanwhile the process of selecting the hosts of World Series 2025, which will be used to determine some of the qualifiers for the 2026 tournament, will start next month.
After initial plans to hold the next tournament in 2025 in the USA and Canada were scrapped, it was awarded to France, but then the organisers pulled out, citing cost factors.
They were unable to meet stricter financial criteria laid out by the new French government, which meant the event was in danger of running at a loss.
IRL then announced the tournament would be pushed back to 2026 as part of a revamped international calendar.
A tender process to find the host nation was opened, with expressions of interest from a number of locations across the world.
It’s not certain whether Australia’s bid includes games in the Pacific nations and New Zealand.
The rescheduling led to a downsizing of the men’s event from 16 teams. with IRL claiming that would increase the competitiveness of games and therefore showcase the sport more effectively.
The eight quarter-finalists from 2022 – holders Australia, England, Fiji, Lebanon, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga – have already qualified, leaving only two spots up for grabs through the World Series.
That will involve Cook Islands, Jamaica, South Africa and the winners of this autumn’s European qualification tournament.

First published in League Express newspaper, Issue 3,438 (July 8, 2024)

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