Kenya Simbas could have an easier path to qualifying for their first Rugby World Cup after World Rugby expanded the 2027 tournament.
Kenya Simbas could finally get a chance to feature at the Rugby World Cup following the expansion of the tournament from 20 to 24 teams starting from the 2027 edition in Australia.
Kenya have come close before missing out on the last two editions to Namibia with only one slot available in the qualifiers for African nations but with the expanded tournament, the qualification path might be more favourable.
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This is the first expansion since 1999 when it went to 20 teams from the original 16. Where the four new teams will qualify from will be determined after a review of the ongoing World Cup in France, World Rugby said on Tuesday.
The 2027 dates were set for October 1 to November 13, 2027, the first time the tournament will start in October since 2003 when it was last staged in Australia.
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A reduced four-week pool stage will feed into a new round of 16 as the whole tournament will be played over six weeks rather than the current seven.
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Whether the tournament will continue with four pools with an extra sixth team or more pools, World Rugby did not say.
Expansion was expected after the United States failed to qualify for the ongoing World Cup in France.
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The US will stage the 2031 men’s World Cup and is automatically qualified as the host, but World Rugby did not want to risk the Americans also not qualifying for 2027 and going 12 years between World Cups.
“The decision to expand Rugby World Cup 2027 to 24 teams is logical and the right thing to do,” said World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont.
“We must create greater relevance, opportunity and competitiveness to attract new fans and grow value.
“This incredible Rugby World Cup 2023 tournament has demonstrated the passion and potential that lies beyond the top 10 or 12 nations, if we think big and think inclusive. It is not acceptable to accept the status quo. Not acceptable to do nothing.”
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Rugby Australia bid for 2027 on the basis of a 20-team tournament but welcomed expansion as “a fantastic outcome,” organising committee head Rod Eddington said.