The World Rugby Council has approved a new aligned international calendar, expanded 24-team men’s World Cup and a top division of 12 teams in a Nations League concept from 2026 that will have promotion and relegation but only from 2030.
It is a major reform of a sport that is struggling to provide meaningful opportunities to smaller unions, and comes at a time when the likes of Portugal and Fiji have shown the promise of Tier Two sides at the World Cup in France.
World Rugby says the changes have been made to allow those nations greater access to play elite opposition, but there has been criticism that the initial ‘closed shop’ nature of the Nations League will hinder this.
There will also be a first ever dedicated international release window in the women’s game from 2026, with a review of the global calendar and competition structures promised in the future.
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