World Rugby has revised the host selection process for the Rugby World Cup by awarding preferred candidate statuses to Australia for the 2027 men’s event and England for the 2025 women’s tournament.

World Rugby has also confirmed that the US will enter into exclusive targeted dialogue for the 2031 men’s tournament. World Rugby said the changes to the process reflect a model that focuses on building “meaningful partnerships” between the body and potential host countries.

As well as entering into a period of exclusive targeted dialogue over the men’s World Cup in 2031, the US will hold talks with World Rugby over a women’s edition in the future. The US has never hosted a Rugby World Cup before.

World Rugby said that discussions are ongoing with a number of interested parties regarding hosting for the 2029 edition of the women’s Rugby World Cup.

World Rugby has traditionally held a bidding process to determine hosting rights for the World Cup but it is hoped the new approach will help unlock new revenue streams and maximise financial and social outcomes for hosts. The final hosting rights will be awarded by the World Rugby Council in May 2022.

The reform follows a full review of the host selection process, the objectives for the Rugby World Cup and the current global environment. World Rugby said the process will deliver greater alignment between the body and future Rugby World Cup hosts.

As preferred candidates for the 2025 and 2027 Rugby World Cups, England and Australia will be able to present a flexible approach with hosting proposals that best fit their sporting, economic, social and environmental planning needs.

World Rugby said the ultimate goal of the preferred candidate model is to unlock greater value for hosts and global rugby development, with a strong emphasis on building sustainable relationships with host countries and broadening fan and commercial appeal.

Under the new model, World Rugby will take more direct responsibility for the delivery of the events. World Rugby will work with preferred candidates to help reduce hosting costs and maximise revenue and delivery opportunities.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said: “The new approach to electing Rugby World Cup hosts is more flexible and collaborative, with World Rugby working with potential hosts to optimise their Rugby World Cup proposals and align them with long-term social and economic development plans for the benefit of their communities and the future expansion of the sport.

“As a result, we are entering into an enhanced relationship with England and Australia as exclusive Preferred Candidates for 2025 and 2027 respectively, and USA in exclusive targeted dialogue with a view to developing the most effective hosting model.”

Bill Sweeney, chief executive of England’s Rugby Football Union, has detailed plans for the 2025 women’s Rugby World Cup to set records in terms of fan attendance, with Twickenham Stadium being lined up to stage the final.

The announcement was also welcomed by Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan, who described the news as an “exciting opportunity” to shape a tournament that can continue the growth of rugby union across the region.

Ross Young, chief executive of USA Rugby, added: “This is a positive next step for the USA as we elevate exclusive discussions with World Rugby and our stakeholders around a successful campaign for Rugby World Cup 2031.

“The United States is an emerging rugby market primed with potential that we’re excited to unlock and strategically partner in the most effective way. With USA cities, commissions and stakeholders eager to support a USA-hosted Rugby World Cup, this targeted dialogue opens a new door for collaboration and progress, ultimately fuelling an optimistic future for USA Rugby and the global game.”

Japan hosted the most recent men’s World Cup in 2019, with France set to stage the 2023 event. New Zealand will host the women’s Rugby World Cup in 2022, with Ireland having staged the last event in 2017.

The new approach adopted by World Rugby is similar to that of the International Olympic Committee, which in February named the Australian city of Brisbane as its preferred candidate to host the 2032 Olympics. Brisbane was confirmed as the host city in July.

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