Rugby League World Cup

Key Points

• Structure confirmed for 2025 World Series to determine final two men’s berths for RLWC2026.

• Deadline to award hosting rights for RLWC2026 extended at request of bidding nations.

• A stand-alone Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup to take place in 2029.

• Tendering process to commence for 2028 Women’s, 2029 Wheelchair and 2030 Men’s World Cup.

The Board of International Rugby League has confirmed significant details about the game’s new international calendar and the next two Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair Rugby League World Cups.

After announcing a new look World Cup format and international calendar until 2030 at July’s Board meeting in Singapore, the IRL Board met again this week and agreed on further details, including the structure of a World Series as part of the men’s qualifying process for RLWC2026.

RLWC2026, to be hosted in the Southern Hemisphere, will again feature Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair tournaments played side by side before each discipline is afforded its own stand-alone World Cup.

The next Wheelchair World Cup, after 2026, will be staged in 2029 – in between the 2028 Women’s World Cup and the 2030 Men’s World Cup.

A bidding process to host one or more of the 2028 Women’s Rugby League World Cup, the 2029 Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup and the 2030 Men’s Rugby League World Cup 2030 has been confirmed and a public invitation to tender (ITT) process will be launched next week.

The deadline to submit bids for RLWC2026 has been deferred until March 31, 2024, at the request of the tenderers.

IRL Chair Troy Grant said: “Now that we have a clear view of the International Calendar until 2030, it is important to start the ITT process so that the IRL has plenty of time to secure long term hosts and sponsorships for the game’s pinnacle event.

“The qualification path is also becoming clearer for RLWC2026, and the development of the Regional Championships and World Series will be broadened, and better understood, after consultation with all of our member nations in the confederations.

“The Regional Qualifiers and World Series construct is key for the longer term, so that we have genuine engaged pathways for all nations to realise their ambitions.”

2025 World Series

A new World Series concept will be introduced in 2025 to determine the final two men’s berths for RLWC2026, alongside the quarter-finalists from last year’s World Cup – Australia, Samoa, New Zealand, England, Lebanon, Tonga, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

The World Series will be contested by one team from each of the IRL’s four regions – Cook Islands (as the sole eligible Asia-Pacific nation) and the winners of the Americas, European and Middle East-Africa (MEA) qualifying tournaments. Details of these competitions will be finalised this year.

The top two teams at the World Series will qualify for RLWC2026.

RLWC 2026 eligibility for nations

Further to the July 2024 Board resolution which confirmed that only full members would be eligible for men’s RLWC2026 qualification, the IRL Board has confirmed that March 31, 2024 will be the deadline for all national federation eligibility for the 2026 event. That means:

• Only IRL full members on March 31, 2024 will be eligible for the Men’s World Cup.

• Only IRL full and affiliate members on March 31, 2024 will be eligible for the Women’s and Wheelchair World Cups.

2029 Wheelchair World Cup

After July’s meeting in Singapore, the IRL Board announced it would work to determine where the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup best fitted in the international calendar.

It has now been agreed that the best position for the Wheelchair World Cup, after 2026, is in 2029 – between the Women’s and Men’s World Cups – and every four years thereafter.

This decision will enhance IRL intellectual property by ensuring the three flagship World Cups are given equal prominence in consecutive years, increase the attractiveness of IRL commercial sponsorships and provide more high-quality content for the IRL’s broadcast partners.