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New World Cup qualification pathway confirmed as Ireland set for long route

The 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup will be hosted by reigning champions New Zealand.

WORLD RUGBY HAVE officially announced a new qualification pathway to 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup (WRWC) — and it’s of significant Irish interest as they take this route for the first time.

Ireland stand for the national anthem The Ireland team during this year's Six Nations. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The top seven placed teams from WRWC 2017 on these shores — reigning champions New Zealand, England, USA, France, Canada, Australia and Wales — have already secured automatic qualification for the 12-team 2021 edition in NZ.

A disastrous campaign on home soil, and ultimately a loss to Wales in the seventh place playoff, means that Adam Griggs’ side now have to go the long road.

A new European competition throws up one coveted berth in September 2020. A first standalone qualification tournament on this continent, Ireland, Italy and Scotland will battle it out along with the 2020 Rugby Europe Women’s champion, and the winner qualifies directly.

It’s interesting to note that after Ireland’s dismal Six Nations campaign — their worst finish in 13 years — they’re sitting 10th in the latest world rankings, below Italy (6th) and non 6N-playing Spain (9th).

There will be similar regional tournaments in Oceania, Asia and South America — and then an historic first-ever Repechage tournament to determine the final teams to qualify.

The Repechage will take place in 2020 and will compromise of the second-placed teams in the Asia, Europe and Oceania regional tournaments, along with the winner of a South America-Africa playoff.

“We are committed to accelerating the development of the women’s game at international level,” World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said.

New Zealand celebrate winning the 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup New Zealand were champions in 2017. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“Last year we announced significant remodeling of the Women’s Rugby World Cup format to ensure that the competition continues to be as competitive as possible, while also continuing to engage fans worldwide.

“The introduction of a new qualification pathway and Repechage tournament for the first time in the tournament’s history, is another significant and exciting step forward, that will offer more unions an opportunity to qualify for the World Cup in 2021.”

Ireland 2017 — staged in Belfield and Kingspan Stadium in Belfast — was a record-breaking tournament, attracting unprecedented interest levels as attendance broke the 45,000 mark for the first time. 

Strong broadcast figures were also recorded in Ireland and the USA, while the tournament set new records in France and the UK.

New Zealand 2021 will be the first time the tournament is held in the southern hemisphere.

You can read more about the new WRWC 2021 qualification pathway here.

- This article was updated to correct Spain’s world ranking to 8th

Gavan Casey and Ryan Bailey are joined by Bernard Jackman to look back on a thrilling weekend of European rugby on the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly:


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Emma Duffy

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