The Board of International Rugby League (IRL) 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.
A new World Series concept will be introduced in 2025 to determine the final two men’s berths for RLWC2026.
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, with our Men entering the European qualifying tournament.
The top two teams at the World Series will qualify 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 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. Each World Cup will then enter its own four-year cycle. As semi-finalists in the last World Cup, our Wheelchair side qualify automatically for 2026.
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.”