Favourites to host 2026 Rugby League World Cup emerge with decision imminent

Aaron Bower
RLWC, Australia, James Tedesco.

Australia looks set to win the race to be the hosts of the next Rugby League World Cup in 2026, Love Rugby League has learned.

The tournament’s hosting rights have been up for grabs for almost a year, ever since France admitted last May that they would be unable to host the event. They cited huge financial pressures imposed on them by the French government as their reason for pulling out, with the tournament likely to run at a deficit.

That led to the International Rugby League accepting bids from across the globe. There was speculation that regions including the Middle East had been looking at lodging a bid at one stage – but it now appears it is heading to a familiar destination in 2026.

Australia’s bid looks likely to be the one that gets over the line – and while it remains unclear whether it will comprise games in neighbouring Pacific nations or New Zealand, the majority of the event, including the business end, will be played in Australia.

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The tournament will feature concurrent men’s, women’s and wheelchair events, as was the case in 2022. However, there is already discontent over the fact the men’s tournament will feature just ten teams, down from 16 two years ago.

Eight qualifiers – the eight quarter-finalists from 2022 – have already been determined, meaning there are just two more places available for competing nations across the globe. They will be decided via a new World Series event at the end of next season.

That will feature Jamaica, Cook Islands, South Africa and the winners of a European qualifying tournament featuring France, Serbia, Ukraine and Wales that will be held later this year. The top two sides will progress to the World Cup.

And it looks increasingly likely that those teams will be heading to Australia, with the event in two years’ time set to take place Down Under once again.

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