Just two countries, Australia and New Zealand, will vie to host the next edition of the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2021 after their respective rugby unions met a deadline of 10 August to submit bids for the showpiece quadrennial event.
Australia and New Zealand are two of rugby union's major strongholds, yet neither has previously hosted a women's World Cup. Nevertheless, the shortlist is likely to be regarded as somewhat of a disappointment, after four additional countries - England, France, Portugal and Wales - had met an initial deadline of 31 May to express interest in hosting the tournament.
World Rugby, the sport’s international governing body, had cited the 2017 tournament in Ireland, which was the best-attended and the most-watched to date, as the reason for the high number of submissions
World Rugby said in a statement today: “The 2021 tournament will be the first to feature exciting new format changes, including the extension of the tournament window from 23 to 35 days (promoting player welfare), the addition of a quarter-final stage and squad increases from 28 to 30 players, reflecting World Rugby’s commitment to accelerating the development of the women’s game.”
The bids will be assessed against eight hosting objectives:
• “The vision for the tournament and how candidates will build on the success of WRWC 2017
• “A financial model that will support the delivery of a successful tournament
• “Strong commercial capability
• “Venues and infrastructure in line with requirements
• “Full and vibrant venues and a strong fan-base
• “Player welfare considered across all the functional areas
• “A clear Impact Beyond legacy programme that supports the development of the women’s game
• “A strong marketing and communications policy to promote fan awareness and ticket sales.”
Bill Beaumont, World Rugby’s president, said: “We are delighted that Australia and New Zealand – two trailblazers in women’s rugby and women’s sport in general – are committed to hosting a fantastic Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2021.
“It is particularly exciting that both bids have strong government financial backing, which underscores the importance and attractiveness of Women’s Rugby World Cup as a sporting, societal, economic and legacy driver. This excellent support reflects the significant global excitement and momentum behind women’s rugby and women in rugby.
“Ireland 2017 was a magnificent tournament by any Rugby World Cup standards and I am sure that both unions will be determined to raise the bar again as we look forward to a tournament that features an exciting new format.”
The World Rugby Council is set to vote to select the 2021 host of at its interim meeting in Dublin on 14 November.
Last year, World Rugby said that it would overhaul the bidding process for future (men’s) World Cups following the controversy that accompanied the award to France of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, when the ruling Council rejected the recommendation by the board of Rugby World Cup Limited that South Africa should play host.
South Africa won just one-third of the votes in the first round of secret voting, with France going on to defeat South Africa by 24 votes to 15 in the second round of voting. In the first round, France had scored 18 votes, South Africa 13 and Ireland eight - a clear, and embarrassing, rejection of the RWC recommendation, which came about after an independent evaluation report.
Brett Gosper, chief executive of World Rugby, said at the time that a review would take place after admitting that the existing process had left the governing body “open to what is a perceived contradiction that doesn’t look tidy.”