The 2019 Rugby World Cup could be the final edition of the tournament that is contested by 20 teams with organisers intent on expansion.
It may be as early as France 2023 that an additional four nations are represented, although the ensuing competition four years later is more likely as World Rugby look to increase the reach of the game.
Hong Kong, Germany, Kenya and the Cook Islands are among the sides who might benefit from any enlargement, but chief executive Brett Gosper is aware of an important balance that must be struck.
“We’re always looking from an expansive point of view rather than reducing so it’s just a question of when rather than if,” World Rugby boss Gosper said.
“We want to make sure the teams are competitive enough to move to a 24-team tournament. We have assumed 20 for 2023 but we could change that between now and 2023.
“The tendency for us is to try and look to expand. It’s about growing the global game – getting interest from fans and commercial interest in new markets.
“But you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the teams. We’re definitely in an expansive mindset, is how I’d put it.”
Strengthening the expansionist cause would be the less established teams surpassing expectations at Japan 2019.
“If those teams had a good tournament it would give courage and impetus to change,” Gosper said.
World Rugby is keen to play down the prospect of a mismatch when the Pool B repechage winner – most likely Canada or Hong Kong – face all-conquering New Zealand in Oita on October 2.
“We’ll work hard after that team qualifies to ensure they’ve got all the technical coaches they need – as we do for each World Cup,” Gosper said.
“We are confident that team that qualifies will be competitive enough, even against the All Blacks.”
Meanwhile the owners of the clubs that comprise Premiership Rugby meet in London on Tuesday to discuss an offer from private equity to give up 51 per cent of the league in exchange for £275million.
Although World Rugby have no involvement in any part of the process, the global game’s governing body is monitoring developments closely.
“We’re keeping appraised of the situation and are having conversations with the Rugby Football Union. We’ll see how it plays out,” Gosper said.
A £275million bid from a private equity company to buy the Premiership - could be a historic "game-changing" deal for English club rugby.https://t.co/piWPJwee6P— owenslotTheTimes (@owenslot) September 5, 2018
“It’s an interesting occurrence but also a normal one. Elements of rugby are always in conversations about how they can raise the general funding of the sport to accelerate growth.
“We’ve been in conversations ourselves in the past – most areas of rugby are looking to find ways they can create expansion in right areas.
“It’s a normal objective being sought there, but you have to weigh that extra money coming in with the cost to control that comes with it.
“That’s one of the reasons we’ve never ventured into that area before and why we’d always be concerned about the exit plans of other investors.”
Wales’ 31-man Rugby World Cup squad will arrive in Japan on September 12 – 11 days before their tournament opener against Georgia – the Welsh Rugby Union announced.
The camp will see Wales training at the City of Kitakyushu Stadium, and as part of a relationship with the city, the WRU will deliver a community programme that includes training sessions for local participants, in addition to working with coaches and local referees.
Coaches from the WRU’s community department last month staged the first of three separate camps ahead of the Rugby World Cup, with more than 600 children taking part.
As part of the city’s backing for Wales at the tournament, hundreds of city fire and emergency response vehicles have been emblazoned with messages of support, and hundreds of Kitakyushu citizens wore red at a local carnival following the first community camp.
WRU kick off 'blossoming' relationship with city of Kitakyushu 🇯🇵— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) September 4, 2018
The city will host the squad ahead of 2019 @rugbyworldcup & raft of community engagement programmes are underway in the city which is looking to turn itself red for next year's tournamenthttps://t.co/dj56ToLxNs pic.twitter.com/YsIQKZRdWg
“The people of Kitakyushu could not have been more welcoming and accommodating,” WRU head of Rugby participation and former Wales captain Ryan Jones said.
“They want to turn their city red during the World Cup, and are encouraging their citizens to get behind the team in 14 months’ time.”
After tackling Georgia, Wales face further pool games against Australia, Fiji and Uruguay, with their quarter-final scheduled in Oita if they progress.
The squad sees the inclusion of new faces Thomas Okidia, Ephraim Oduor and Elvis Namusasi.
There is also a return for former captain Wilson Kopondo who missed the entire Gold Cup campaign while Curtis Lilako, Oscar Simiyu, Isaac Adimo, Edmund Anya and Erick Kerre are omited altogether.
The Marseille repechage is the Simbas final stab at qualification for the 2019 Rugby World Cup after missing out on the African berth when they finished second to eventual qualifiers Namibia during the Gold Cup which also doubled up as the African round of qualifying.
They will be up against Canada, Germany and Hong Kong in the round robin competition whose winner will secure a ticket to compete against New Zealand, South Africa, Italy and Namibia in Pool B of next year’s tournament in Japan.
The team starts training on Monday September 3.
This is the Mombasa RFC fly half -Elvis Namusasi- who has been called to the Kenya Simbas squad for the upcoming repechage in France.— Eric Njiru (@Erik_Njiru) September 1, 2018
Other fly-halves in the squad
2.Biko Adema* pic.twitter.com/5NjwIdwOZC
Props: Patrick Ouko (Menengai Cream Homeboyz), Moses Amusala (KCB), Thomas Okidia (Menengai Cream Homeboyz), Ephraim Oduor (Kabras Sugar), Joseph Odero (Kabras Sugar), Hillary Mwanjilwa (Kabras Sugar)
Hookers: Colman Were (Kabras Sugar), Peter Karia (KCB), Philip Ikambili (Menengai Cream Homeboyz)
Locks: Wilson Kopondo (Kenya Harlequin), Andrew Chogo (Kabras Sugar), Oliver Mang’eni (KCB), Malcolm Onsando (Kenya Harlequin)
Backrow: George Nyambua (Kabras Sugar), Dalmus Chituyi (Menengai Cream Homeboyz), Elkeans Musonye (Strathmore Leos), Davis Chenge (KCB), Martin Owilah (KCB)
Scrum halves: Samson Onsomu (Resolution Impala Saracens), Mohamed Omollo (Menengai Cream Homeboyz), Xavier Kipng’etich (Resolution Impala Saracens)
Fly Halves: Darwin Mukidza (KCB), Elvis Namusasi (Regional Logistics Mombasa)
Centers: Leo Seje (Resolution Impala Saracens), Maxwell Kang’eri ( Menengai Cream Homeboyz), Peter Kilonzo (KCB), Zedden Marrow (Menengai Cream Homeboyz), Felix Ayange ( Kabras Sugar)
Back Three: Tony Onyango (Menengai Cream Homeboyz), Vincent Mose (Resolution Impala Saracens), Jacob Ojee (KCB), William Ambaka (Kenya Harlequin)
Utility: Biko Adema (Nondescripts)