The 2023 Rugby World Cup could be extended by a week to ensure longer rest periods for all competing nations.
Officials at World Rugby have held discussions with the global players’ union and tournament organisers about ways to maximise player welfare at the World Cup in France.
“This includes building on our stated commitment at the end of Japan 2019 to extend rest days for all teams and minimise overall travel load for participating teams, which is good for all,” the global governing body said in a statement to The Associated Press.
The full match schedule will be released by the end of February. The tournament is scheduled to run for six weeks, from September 8-October 21.
World Rugby believes extending it — potentially making it a seven-week competition — would improve the integrity and fairness of the tournament because lower-ranked nations would have as much recovery and preparation time between games as the top teams.
British newspaper The Daily Mail reported that squads for the World Cup could be increased from 31 to 33 players to also protect their welfare and allow for greater rotation.
The paper reported that a letter was sent Monday to the unions of competing countries by Alan Gilpin, World Rugby’s interim chief executive, in which he said the players’ union — International Rugby Players — believed “a minimum five-day rest period between all matches is a priority issue from a player welfare perspective.”
“Players will not tolerate the shorter rest periods for future tournaments,” Gilpin reportedly said in the letter. “We have therefore had to address this for 2023.”