- The 2027 men's Rugby World Cup looks set to be hosted by Australia, with the 2031 event likely to go to the USA.
- South Africa, which surprisingly missed out on hosting the 2023 event, is not in the picture.
- The next women's edition, in 2025, looks set to go to England, World Rugby has announced.
World Rugby has announced its preferred candidates to host the next two men's Rugby World Cups.
The global governing body said in a statement on Wednesday that Australia is the preferred candidate to host the 2027 men's World Cup and the USA for the 2031 showpiece. South Africa, which last hosted the the Rugby World Cup in 1995, is not in the picture.
World Rugby added that the next women's edition, in 2025, is likely to go to England.
"All countries have worked closely with World Rugby and other key stakeholders to fulfil the requirements to achieve Preferred Candidate and Exclusive Targeted Dialogue status respectively," a statement from World Rugby read.
"Alongside the awarding of Preferred Candidate status to England and Australia, the World Rugby Council additionally voted to implement a series of exclusive discussions with the USA in relation to Rugby World Cup 2031 hosting.
"As an emerging rugby market with a 10-year runway to the 2031 tournament, the USA will require a unique and extended approach that will require extensive further dialogue with key stakeholders. This dialogue will take place with a view to developing the most effective hosting model for a Rugby World Cup in North America and the global game in the long-term."
If awarded the hosting rights for 2031, it will be the first time the USA hosts the Rugby World Cup, while Australia last played hosts in 2003.
World Rugby chairperson, Bill Beaumont, explained the new approach to electing Word Cup hosts: "[It's] more flexible and collaborative, with World Rugby working with potential hosts to optimise their World Cup proposals and align them with long-term social and economic development plans for the benefit of their communities and the future expansion of the sport.
"As a result, we are entering into an enhanced relationship with England and Australia as exclusive preferred candidates for 2025 and 2027 respectively, and USA in exclusive targeted dialogue with a view to developing the most effective hosting model."
World Rugby CEO, Alan Gilpin, added: "We must continue to keep up with the fast pace of change in our current world and provide value for our future host nations and unions.
"Flexibility is a necessity to ensure good governance and to have successful sustainable men's and women's World Cups. We will do that while maintaining the personality of our events and our commitment to having players and fans at the heart of everything we do."
Rugby Australia chairperson, Hamish McLennan, commented: "We welcome today's announcement and thank the World Rugby Council for the trust they have demonstrated in the team at Rugby Australia and the vision for Australia 2027.
"We look forward to working with our colleagues at World Rugby over the coming months to develop the model for World Cup 2027. This is an exciting opportunity to shape a tournament which will continue the growth of our great game across Australia, the Pacific and globally and showcase our country to the world.
"I'd like to thank the entire Rugby Australia team, notably the Executive, Board and World Cup Bid Advisory Board including Sir Rod Eddington and Phil Kearns for their strong stewardship throughout this process. I'd also like to acknowledge the Australian Government for their incredible support of our bid to date."
USA Rugby CEO, Ross Young, lauded the intention to bring the World Cup to an emerging rugby market: "This is a positive next step for the USA as we elevate exclusive discussions with World Rugby and our stakeholders around a successful campaign for World Cup 2031.
"The United States is an emerging rugby market primed with potential that we’re excited to unlock and strategically partner in the most effective way.
"With USA cities, commissions and stakeholders eager to support a USA-hosted World Cup, this targeted dialogue opens a new door for collaboration and progress, ultimately fuelling an optimistic future for USA Rugby and the global game."
Meanwhile English RFU CEO, Bill Sweeney, said they were delighted to be awarded preferred candidate status for the women's World Cup in 2025.
"Hosting it will be incredible, our ambition is to stage the best attended women's World Cup ever, with nationwide qualifiers and a sellout final at Twickenham Stadium.
"We are looking forward to working with World Rugby and government to make this happen. We will now focus all our bidding efforts on securing these games and wish Australia and the USA every success with their plans to host future World Cups.
"Women's rugby is growing exponentially and securing World Cup 2025 will significantly support our aggressive growth targets for the women’s game while further advancing all women's sport. In addition, World Cup will deliver significant economic and legacy returns for the whole country."