World Rugby has confirmed an additional four teams will take part in the Rugby World Cup from 2025 onwards as the competition expands from 12 to 16 teams.
The change in format comes too late for the next tournament in New Zealand in 2021 where the pool draw has already taken place.
However, World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont called the expansion a 'milestone moment' for the women's game. “Women’s rugby is the single greatest opportunity to grow the sport globally.
"In 2017 we set out an ambitious eight-year plan to accelerate the development of women in rugby, with a core pillar focussing on high-performance competition and an ambition to improve and expand the number of teams competing in pinnacle events. We have seen in recent years that more teams are making a statement at international level and unions are continuing to develop their women’s high-performance programmes," Beaumont said.
“This is a milestone moment for the women’s game, expansion of the Rugby World Cup opens additional aspirational and inspirational playing pathway opportunities for unions at the highest level of the game and creates added incentive for unions worldwide to continue to invest and grow in their women’s programmes.”