Australia celebrates winning the Rugby League World Cup Final in 2017.
Australia celebrates winning the Rugby League World Cup Final in 2017.

New format for Rugby League World Cup announced

Hosts England will open the 2021 Rugby League World Cup and will be seeded alongside titleholders Australia, New Zealand and Tonga.

Details of the draw were unveiled on Monday following a four-day congress of the Rugby League International Federation in York.

The Rugby League World Cup has been increased from 14 to 16 teams, making for a simpler format, with the top two teams from each of the four pools going through to the quarter-finals.

The draws for all three Rugby League World Cups, including the women's and wheelchair events, will be made in England on November 27, 2019, exactly two years before the 2021 final.

The second pot will feature tier two teams Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Fiji, and Lebanon, who all qualified automatically after reaching the last eight of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

The final two pots will feature qualifiers, based on their world ranking, including the two most recently qualified sides, France and Wales.

After failing to win through from the European championship, Ireland and Scotland hope to secure qualification at the second attempt in 2019, while the United States, Chile, Jamaica, and Canada will provide one qualifier from the Americas championship in Jacksonville this week.

The women's tournament will begin on the men's quarter-final weekend in 2021.

"One of our main aims was to hold the most inclusive Rugby League World Cup of all time, and I'm delighted that we have that confirmed," Rugby League World Cup chief executive Jon Dutton said.

"It was important for us to demonstrate a commitment to tier two nations, and growing maturity for the World Cup with a clearer format."