Cup expansion eyed: HK may benefit from World Rugby plans

In a move that should gladden Hong Kong fans, the Rugby World Cup could be expanded to include 24 teams from the current 20 by the 2023 tournament in France.



Wednesday, September 12, 2018

In a move that should gladden Hong Kong fans, the Rugby World Cup could be expanded to include 24 teams from the current 20 by the 2023 tournament in France.

And World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper said expanding the sport's global showpiece is "just a question of when rather than if ."

The tournament has featured 20 teams since the 1999 tournament in Wales and the same number will compete next year in Japan.

But Gosper said: "We're always looking from an expansive point of view rather than reducing.

"We want to make sure the teams are competitive enough to move to a 24-team tournament. We have assumed 20 for 2023 but we could change that between now and 2023. It's about growing the global game - getting interest from fans and commercial interest in new markets ... We're definitely in an expansive mindset."

Hong Kong, who have invested heavily in the game, have been knocking on World Cup qualification for years - and any move to expand the tournament could make it easier for the SAR to qualify.

They are just one step away from qualifying for Japan 2019 after getting into a four-team repechage, to be played in November in Marseilles, against Canada, Germany and Kenya. Hong Kong advanced after beating the Cook Islands home and away in a repechage playoff.

The World Cup has faced criticism for serving up too many routs of smaller rugby countries that qualified through regional playoffs. Gosper said how nations like Georgia and Namibia perform in Japan could prove to be a factor in expansion plans.

REUTERS