Women's Rugby World Cup to be expanded to 16 teams in 2025

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The women's Rugby World Cup will expand from 12 teams to 16 from 2025 amid efforts to further spread the sport, World Rugby announced on Monday.

The expansion comes as the sport's governing body continues its strategic planning for the development of the women's game.

"Women's rugby is the single greatest opportunity to grow the sport globally," said World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont.

"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 the announcement was a "milestone moment", arguing that expansion of the World Cup opened up "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".

The most recent women's World Cup was held in Ireland in 2017. Five-time champions New Zealand are scheduled to host the next tournament in 2021.

After two unsanctioned competitions in 1991 and 1994, the International Rugby Board (now World Rugby) backed the women's World Cup from 1998 and its five subsequent editions.

Since its inception, only 21 countries have participated in the women's World Cup.

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