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Rugby World Cup sticks to 20 teams
World Cup 'minnows' will once again get the chance to shine at New Zealand 2011.
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2007 12:53 GMT
Georgia will be looking forward to the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand [GALLO/GETTY]
The International Rugby Board (IRB) has announced that the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand will remain a 20-team competition.
Before this year's World Cup in France, where South Africa beat England in October's final, plans for a reduction from 20 teams to 16 were being considered because of the numerous mismatches that had taken place in the previous five editions.
However, one of the outstanding features of the recently concluded 2007 World Cup was the way in which many unheralded sides including added to the spectacle of the competition including Fiji's win over Wales and Georgia coming close to a huge upset win over Ireland.
 
Many of the so-called 'junior' nations said a reduction in World Cup numbers would stifle the development of their rugby and leave them with little incentive to improve.
 

"The developing nations at RWC 2007 have produced significantly enhanced performances since RWC 2003."

Dr Syd Millar,
IRB chairman

The decision to stick with the 20-team format was made at a special meeting of the IRB Council which followed a three-day global rugby forum held by the governing body in Woking, south of London.
 
"The developing nations at Rugby World Cup 2007 have produced significantly enhanced performances since RWC 2003," Dr Syd Millar, IRB chairman, said.
 
"This is a direct result of the global $60 million IRB strategic investment programme that was established in 2005."
 
Eight places up for grabs
 
"The successful New Zealand tender bid for RWC 2011 was based on 20 teams. At the Council meeting the motion maintaining the number of teams at RWC at 20 was proposed by New Zealand council member Graham Mourie," Millar added.
 
"The IRB is very confident that the tournament will be a huge success."
 
The playing window for RWC 2011 in New Zealand is September-October 2011 with the final taking place on the weekend of October 22-23, 2011.
 
An IRB statement added that the qualification process for the eight vacant places was being reviewed, however the board had already announced that the number of automatic qualifiers would increase from eight to 12 places.
 
Therefore, South Africa, England, Argentina, France, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Fiji, Wales, Ireland, Tonga and Italy have automatically qualified as the top three teams in their respective 2007 World Cup pools.
Source:
Agencies
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