Under reported pressure from unions to address player welfare, the board of Rugby World Cup Ltd has formulated plans to change the competition’s structure for the next 2023 World Cup in France.
According to the Daily Mail, the board met last Friday and resolved that the 2023 event would conclude with a final on 28 October, a week later than initially planned.
The week’s extension of the tournament has been agreed in order to ensure that all teams have a minimum five-day rest period between matches in the pool stages.
The message from players’ unions to governing bodies was that teams were no longer willing to accept the tight turnarounds between pool games. This was particularly the case for tier-two nations who often found themselves playing twice in six days.
Alan Gilpin, World Rugby’s interim chief executive, communicated the decision to the participating nations in a letter this week.
‘Over the last few weeks, we received strong representations from International Rugby Players and its representatives on the RWCL Board that a minimum five-day rest period between all matches is a priority issue from a player welfare perspective, and that players will not tolerate the shorter rest periods for future tournaments. We have therefore had to address this for 2023.’
The decision to extend the tournament has been met with some resistance in England from both Premiership Rugby and the RFU. The RFU released a statement voicing their concern.
‘The RFU received late notification from World Rugby that there is a proposal to extend Rugby World Cup 2023 by seven days. The RFU is aligned with initiatives to improve player welfare. However, we believe more discussion is required to consider all options and the potential impact on clubs.’
Premiership Rugby also voiced its protestation.
‘Premiership Rugby hasn’t been consulted over this proposal from World Rugby and we would expect time to consider it properly before any decision is made.’
In a further change to the competition, squad sizes for the competition will be increased from 31 to 33 players, also on the grounds of player welfare.