Rugby League World Cup: Southern Hemisphere to Host in 2026

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London, England 12 Nov 22: Samoa celebrate after Stephen Crichton kicks the winning golden point drop goal to win the Rugby League World Cup Semi-Final match at Emirates Stadium (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images).

The Rugby League World Cup scheduled to be held in France in 2025 will instead be played in the Southern Hemisphere in 2026, the sport’s governing body, the International Rugby League (IRL) said.

The IRL issued a statement following a board meeting in Singapore Chairman Troy Grant has said the decision focused on “securing he financial future of the international game”.

“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,” said Grant.

As to which country in the Southern Hemisphere would host – we would have to wait til the end of this year for the announcement.

“A decision on the hosting rights for the 2026 Rugby League World Cup in the Southern Hemisphere, featuring Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair tournaments, will be made by the end of this year,” states the IRL.

“A competitive tender process for all World Cups until 2030 will also commence this year.”

The men’s tournament will be reduced from 16 teams to 10, with the eight quarter-finalists from last year’s tournament automatically qualifying.

Australia, Samoa, England, New Zealand, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Lebanon and Fiji will be joined by just two qualifiers.

Toa Samoa wrote one of sports finest comeback stories when they shattered England’s dreams of a World Cup victory on home soil, when Stephen Crichton’s winning golden point drop goal led to the most dramatic ending of all RLWC 2022 matches.

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Samoa had gone down to England 60-6 a month earlier in the opening match of the tournament. The Toa had regrouped and came back to defeat Tonga 20-18 in the quarterfinal before ending the hosts hopes in the semis.