The draw for the Women’s 2026 Rugby League World Cup Qualifiers takes place tomorrow afternoon – January 17 – with seven nations involved.
Four of the eight available spots in the newly-reduced tournament have been automatically filled by the four semi-finalists from the delayed 2021 edition.
Those are Australia (champions), New Zealand (runners-up), Papua New Guinea & England (beaten semi-finalists).
As confirmed last month, the other four spots are up for grabs via a qualification process, with 17 nations in total vying for the four spots.
Of those 17, seven are European, and six of those come April will be involved in a group stage to try and book their place, as below.
Rugby League World Cup 2026: Qualifying group stage draw details with seven nations involved
As the two lowest ranked nations, based upon the December 2023 International Rugby League world rankings, Italy must first face the Netherlands in April to decide which of those progresses into the group stage.
For now, both names will jointly be in the hat tomorrow afternoon when the qualifying draw is made live on European Rugby League’s Facebook page at 1.30pm (GMT).
The draw will result in two groups of three, with the winner of each of those groups automatically qualifying for the 2026 Rugby League World Cup, which will be played in the Southern Hemisphere.
The two teams that finish in second place in the group stage will meet in a final play-off match in October, with the winner then progressing to the 2025 World Series, where one final place for the following year’s tournament will be determined.
As follows, there are three seeds in which the seven nations have been split across, and one team* from each of those seeds will be drawn into each group.
Seed 1 – France and Wales
Seed 2 – Greece and Ireland
Seed 3 – Serbia and Italy / Netherlands
* Italy/Netherlands count as one team
‘The level of interest in this qualifying tournament, and in the women’s game, is higher than ever’
Following tomorrow’s draw, group stage qualifying fixtures will be confirmed, though we already know that they will take place in April, May and June.
The draw will be made by the David Butler, the General Manager of European Rugby League, and ex-England international Andrea Dobson, who was recently inducted onto the RFL’s Roll of Honour.
Speaking to the ERL’s website, Butler said: “To have seven nations vying for qualification shows the huge steps forward the women’s game has taken in Europe in recent years.
“The first Women’s Euro B competition ran in 2022, giving several of these teams their first taste of competitive action.
“Coupled with the bilateral internationals played in 2023, the level of interest in this qualifying tournament, and in the women’s game, is higher than ever.
“We are all very much looking forward to the draw as the competition comes to life.”