The International Rugby Board, rugby union's governing body, today announced changes to the Women's Rugby World Cup following an extensive review of the tournament.
After the 2014 World Cup in France, the next edition of the quadrennial tournament will be played in 2017, instead of 2018 as originally planned.
From 2017, the World Cup will again be played every four years. Details of the qualification process and tender process for that tournament and the 2021 edition will be announced "in due course," the IRB noted.
With rugby sevens making its Olympic debut at Rio 2016, the IRB announced last year that its quadrennial Rugby Sevens World Cup, for men and women, will be moved to the middle of the Olympic cycle, beginning 2018.
The IRB said today that to enable the "world's top [female] players to compete in the pinnacle 15s and Sevens events," the year of the Women's Rugby World Cup would be moved.
The calendar switch is part of a three-point plan aimed at further boosting competition standards, global profile and fan engagement.
In addition, the number of competing nations at the World Cup will be capped at 12 teams "to ensure the highest competition standards," while the global qualification process will be streamlined to "ensure the participation of the world's best teams on the world's biggest stage."
Bernard Lapasset, chairman of the IRB, and of Rugby World Cup Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the IRB, said: "Women's rugby is one of the world's fastest growing team sports with an unprecedented 1.5 million women and girls participating across every continent.
"At the forefront of the phenomenal growth are our flagship women's 15s and sevens events and we are committed to ensuring that Women's Rugby World Cup is cemented as one of the prestige properties in women's sport."
Cheryl Soon, a member of the IRB Rugby Committee, added: "It's a long-term commitment to the women's game, which is growing at a record speed. To enhance that, we need to support the development of the Game and get the schedule right.
"This will allow the top players compete in the Olympics, the Women's Rugby World Cup and then the Rugby World Cup Sevens, if they choose to. The top players can take part in the top events."
Meanwhile, Uzbekistan has become the newest full member of the IRB.
The Uzbekistan Rugby Federation, which became an associate IRB member in 2004, was approved as the 102nd full member union at an IRB Council meeting last week.
The URF is already a full member of the Asian Rugby Football Union, and is recognised by its national Olympic committee.
In addition, the IRB Council granted associate member status to the Federación de Rugby de Costa Rica. The FRCR has submitted an application for recognition to its NOC, which is contingent on IRB membership.