With the ambition of making the schedule the best it can be for players, fans, host cities and the host nation, the Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee have approved a set of key principles for the 10th men’s Rugby World Cup after a thorough review of Rugby World Cup 2019 that delivered best-ever player welfare and competitiveness outcomes in the modern era, including:

  • All teams will have a minimum of five rest days for all matches, optimising recovery and preparation for the tournament
  • The pool phase will be extended by a week to accommodate the additional rest day requirement and will now kick off on 8 September and conclude with the final on 28 October
  • Permitted squad sizes will be increased by two from 31 to 33 players, aiding squad management
  • Overall travel volume and time will be minimised for teams in tournament
  • World Rugby is committed to comprehensive level of player welfare and medical standards, focusing on overall player load reduction

For the first time in modern Rugby World Cup history, no team will have a rest period of less than five days, optimising recovery and preparation, while World Rugby also aims to deliver the most balanced schedule to date in terms of overall rest periods, particularly for emerging nations. The full match schedule will be announced at the end of the month.

With player welfare at the top of the agenda for World Rugby’s Rugby World Cup Board, International Rugby Players representatives Melodie Robinson and Brian O’Driscoll promoted the need for balanced rest periods in light of the increasing physical demands of the game. This was backed by the France 2023 organising committee and qualified unions.

The international federation will also continue to consult with the global players’ body and national unions to ensure optimal training load guidance is followed as part of the tournament’s comprehensive player welfare standards programme.

Springbok training at the 2019 RWC in Japan.

Springbok training at the 2019 RWC in Japan.

As an added benefit the schedule will provide a boost to the host nation, through an additional week of rugby fan attendance. This will drive increased tourism, hospitality spending and an overall economic stimulus, while social engagement and legacy programmes will also benefit.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “This is a landmark day for Rugby World Cup and the sport. As a rugby father, former player, fan and administrator, player welfare is at the very top of my agenda. This continued focus for a player-first decision reflects that commitment.

“Men’s Rugby World Cup schedules are difficult to balance owing to the format of four pools of five teams. Japan 2019 provided the best balance and best-ever welfare outcomes, but we still had a limited number of relatively short rest periods between some matches. In collaboration with France 2023 and International Rugby Players, this decision means that every player and every team will have a fairer chance to perform to their potential in every fixture, and now we will work with the teams to reduce overall load for players. Including travel.”

“On behalf of World Rugby and the France 2023 organising committee I would like to thank the host cities and venues, unions and players for embracing this opportunity. Together, I am convinced that we will deliver an amazing and indeed historic Rugby World Cup in what will be the 200th year of our sport.”

World Rugby Vice-Chair Bernard Laporte added: “This landmark decision will make Rugby World Cup 2023 the most equitable RWC ever. The additional week will be a major boost for the health of our players, providing them with enough time to recover between matches with a minimum of five rest days, and ensuring at the same time the highest possible quality of rugby being played until the end of the competition.”

“We made the wellbeing of our players an absolute priority. By increasing the number of players allowed per team from 31 to 33, we demonstrate our strong commitment in exploring all options available to improve player welfare. France 2023 will not only mark the bicentenary of our sport, but it will also make history thanks to these promising changes. For France and its host cities, it is a pleasure to welcome fans from all over the world who will be able to take the time to discover the beautiful landscapes and sightseeing of our beautiful country.”

International Rugby Players CEO, Omar Hassanein added: “This is a very positive move for the game and one which has been endorsed by all our member player associations from across the globe. I applaud all Rugby World Cup board members and World Rugby management for supporting this move and for adapting the schedule accordingly.”

International Rugby Players representative on the Rugby World Cup Board Brian O’Driscoll added: ““The game has become too physical and competitive for short turnarounds. All teams have found it tough, particularly those without the squad depth of the major nations. This is a positive step forward for the game and further demonstration of how International Rugby Players and World Rugby can work together towards better outcomes”.

Rugby World Cup France 2003 Organising Committee CEO Claude Atcher added: “We are proud to announce this decision to raise the RWC France 2023 operational budget for the purpose of promoting player welfare. This decision furthers what will be a very special tournament where players and fans will experience the best environment across France and we look forward to 48 incredible matches. We expect match performances of the highest quality throughout the tournament period. We hope it will serve as a legacy for future organising committees.”

The decision will enable World Rugby and unions to build on best-ever player welfare outcomes at Rugby World Cup 2019. In Japan, injury replacements per match reduced from 2.08 per match in 2015 to 1.13 in 2019, while there was a 28 per cent overall concussion incidence decrease compared to the 2018 elite competition average and a 37 per cent reduction in tackle concussion incidence compared to the 2018 elite competition average, affirming World Rugby’s ongoing injury-prevention commitment.