The road to Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 in France will begin with this year’s RBS Women's 6 Nations, kicking off an expanded qualification process that will involve more teams than ever before, Rugby World Cup Limited has announced.
Following the resounding success of the acclaimed 2010 tournament in England, teams from Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania will participate in the qualification process for WRWC 2014.
The announcement is a major development for the tournament which has grown from an invitational event to one with an ever-growing qualification process and record broadcast and attendance figures.
England 2010 captured the imagination of fans in the UK and across the world owing to the high level of competition, and the newly designed qualification process will feature the leading existing regional women’s tournaments from around the globe to ensure that the world’s best teams are represented at the showcase event.
There are six automatic qualifiers for WRWC 2014: Reigning world champions New Zealand, 2010 runners up England, 2010 bronze medallists Australia, 2014 hosts France and USA and Canada by virtue of their top six placing at WRWC 2010.
The RBS Women’s 6 Nations will kick start the global qualification process when Ireland take on Wales on February 3. The process will bridge both the 2012 and 2013 championships with the two highest placed teams on aggregate (outside of automatic qualifiers England and France) securing places at France 2014. The two other teams from the Women’s 6 Nations, plus the highest ranked teams in Europe will be joined by a team from Oceania in a Women’s Rugby World Cup qualification tournament in 2013.
Reflecting the significant growth of Women’s Rugby in Africa, the continent will host a qualification tournament for the first time with the burgeoning Elgon Cup in 2013 used to determine the play-off opponent for South Africa, who have played in the past two Women's Rugby World Cups.
“These are exciting times for Women’s Rugby and Women’s Rugby World Cup is the premier event in the Women’s Game, providing the platform for growing the sport across the world and building on the record broadcast and attendances we saw in London two years ago,” said Rugby World Cup Limited Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
“As we look to France 2014, the qualification process will ensure the very best teams from across the world will meet in Paris, and we have created an opportunity for more teams than ever before to achieve their Rugby World Cup dream.”
The expanded qualification process underscores the commitment of the IRB to grow global participation and achieve greater competitiveness as set out in the recently launched IRB Women’s Rugby Plan.
IRB Women’s Development Manager Susan Carty said, “With over 200,000 registered women currently playing the Game in over 100 countries around the world, the qualification process reflects the significant and sustained growth we have experienced in recent years in the Women’s Game.”
“We now have an improved tournament structure around the world, which reflects the appetite for high level elite competition amongst traditional and emerging nations, and we have incorporated these existing competitions, wherever possible, into the qualification process in line with the IRB Women’s Rugby Plan.