More rest days, bigger squads for 2023 RWC

The 2023 World Cup in France will feature increased rest periods for all teams, while permitted squad sizes will be increased to 33 players.

On Monday, it was confirmed that the Rugby World Cup board, the World Rugby executive committee, the France 2023 organising committee and International Rugby Players had agreed to a package of player welfare principles that will underpin a greatly enhanced match schedule when it is announced on 26 February.

The set of key principles for the 10th men’s World Cup include:

  • 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 a 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.

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.’

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Craig Lewis