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Rugby League World Cup shifted to 2026 after France withdrawal

The next Rugby League World Cup will take place in the southern hemisphere in 2026, it was announced Thursday.

France pulled out of hosting the event, originally scheduled for 2025, in May, saying that the tournament carried unacceptable financial risk.

An International Rugby League board meeting in Singapore on Thursday agreed to shift the event to 2026 with a revised format as part of a new calendar.

The slimmed-down competition will feature 10 men’s, eight women’s and eight wheelchair teams.

The eight men’s quarter-finalists from the previous World Cup will automatically qualify for the 2026 tournament, as will the four women’s and wheelchair semi-finalists.

It was also decided that the Women’s Rugby League World Cup will be held as a stand-alone tournament from 2028, with the subsequent Men’s World Cup taking place in 2030. 

A decision will be taken on when best to schedule the Wheelchair World Cup after the 2026 tournament.

“The IRL board has made these decisions to create more compelling content and secure the financial future of the international game,” IRL Chair Troy Grant said.

“The cancellation of France 2025 has given us an opportunity to refresh the structure of the World Cup and associated tournaments as part of a long-term international calendar that all in the game have been desperately seeking.”

A decision on the hosting rights for the 2026 World Cup will be made by the end of this year.

New Zealand said recently it had been in talks with Australia about jointly hosting the tournament in 2025 after France pulled out.

The last Rugby League World Cup was held in England in 2022, after a year’s delay because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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