(ISN) – World Rugby has confirmed the qualification process for the next Women’s Rugby World Cup, to be held in 2017.
Following a comprehensive review of this year’s successful tournament, the World Rugby Council agreed that the top seven teams from Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 will qualify directly, meaning reigning champions England, Canada, France, Ireland, New Zealand, USA and Australia are confirmed for the 2017 tournament.
The additional five teams will be determined through the following qualification process:
The two best ranked Women’s 6 Nations teams (outside of those teams already qualified) from the combined results of the 2015 and 2016 Women’s 6 Nations tournaments.
The winner of a home and away playoff match between the lowest ranked side in the Women’s 6 Nations (combined 2015 and 2016 results and outside of the teams already qualified) and the Rugby Europe Women’s champion.
The two best ranked teams from a final qualifying tournament featuring South Africa, one team from Oceania and two teams from Asia. The qualification process for the Oceania and Asian teams into the final qualification tournament will be determined at a later date.
The host selection tender and the qualifying process was ratified by the World Rugby Council at their meeting in London last month.
Head of Rugby World Cup Alan Gilpin said: “The record-breaking success, appeal and excitement of Paris 2014 underscored just why women’s rugby is one of the world’s fastest-growing team sports.
“We’re happy that the qualification process for the 2017 tournament is robust and will ensure the 12 best teams in the world will be competing.
“The host selection tender process has already stimulated significant interest, and I predict a fantastic Women’s Rugby World Cup in three years’ time, wherever it’s held.”
The tender process to host Women’s Rugby World Cup was launched in November and World Rugby Council will make a decision on the host union at a scheduled meeting in May 2015.
The tournament, which was won by England in Paris last August, will move to 2017 to maximise synergy with the Olympic and Rugby World Cup Sevens cycles. The event will return to a four-year cycle after 2017.