World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin has admitted that staging the World Cup every two years is an “interesting concept” and that they are considering expanding the tournament to 24 teams.
Gilpin’s comments, in an exclusive interview with The Telegraph, come shortly after world soccer governing body Fifa also floated the idea of a biennial World Cup.
The next World Cup is set to take place in France in 2023, where South Africa will be defending the title they won in Japan in 2019. It will be the second time that France hosts the tournament, having done so in 2007.
Gilpin, World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont and France 2023 director general Claude Atcher met in Paris this week and it was reported that among the items on the agenda was reducing the time between World Cups to two years instead of four.
“Biennial World Cups have been considered before and they’re definitely something that we will continue to consider,” Gilpin told the Telegraph. “It’s an interesting concept, especially when you think about the global development of the women’s game, too.
“But the men’s calendar is very congested and complex, with a lot of different stakeholders, and we have to make sure we engage with them all before we consider a World Cup every two years.
“If we decide that we’re going to extend to 24 teams, which might be the ambition, then, actually, when you move to six pools of four, you don’t need any longer,” Gilpin added, when asked about the potential of expanding the tournament from 20 to 24.
“So, we think we’ve probably arrived at the longest possible tournament we can have in the rugby calendar, but there’s now flexibility to expand without making the tournament bigger.”
Law changes were also reportedly discussed at the meeting. Gilpin said the introduction of an “orange card” is being considered, which would act as an intermediary between the yellow and red cards.
Currently, tournaments around the world, including the Rugby Championship, are trialling a new red-card law, which allows the offending player to be replaced after 20 minutes.
“Although there have been a lot of red cards, we have seen that behavioural change,” Gilpin said. “That should now mean that we see red cards going the other way as the players adapt to the new laws. Again, we will see how the red-card replacement affects that.
“There has been lots of discussion around orange cards, too – maybe a 20-minute card while keeping red and yellow.”
Photo: EPA/FRANCK ROBICHON