By Jonathan Davies
2015 - the year of rugby in the UK
The number of teams competing at the Rugby World Cup in 2023 could increase, according to the sport's governing body World Rugby.
Both England 2015 and Japan 2019 will feature 20 teams, but World rugby boss Brett Gosper believes the 2023 tournament could be expanded to represent the growing popularity of the sport without losing any of the competitiveness.
He said that allowing fringe nations to compete at the Rugby World Cup would allow them "to promote the sport in their countries".
"As the sport grows and we conquer new markets the discussion is about looking towards expanding [of the World Cup], rather than contracting," he added.
An expanded tournament would likely bring it greater revenue from TV deals, sponsorship, hospitality and ticket sales.
Mr Gosper told a Sport Industry Group Breakfast Club gathering of sporting executives in London, that lucrative TV deals had been offered in Germany and Russia, but 2019 was considered too soon to bring them in, highlight 2023 as a much more likely time.
Andy Moore, former Welsh international and founder of HIRO, said: “The expansion of the Rugby World Cup can only be great news for the sport, if the competitiveness is maintained. More nations and players playing rugby will only encourage and inspire a new generation of rugby stars.
“An expanded tournament in 2023 would not only mean a huge opportunity for the fringe nations and more rugby to watch for the fans, but it increases the economic potential with more fans travelling to the host nation, ticket sales, packed pubs screening the matches in the UK, merchandise sales and hospitality events.”
The 2015 Rugby World Cup takes place in England and at other stadiums in the UK in the Autumn. But the rugby community currently has all eyes on the Six Nations which concludes on Sunday with England, Ireland and Wales all challenging to win the title.