BBC to land Women’s Rugby World Cup rights

BBC to land Women's Rugby World Cup rights
England will be aiming to win on home soil after heartbreak in 2022 - AP/Andrew Cornaga

The BBC is expected to be awarded the television rights for next year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup in England.

The channel, which had been in a three-way fight with ITV and Channel 4 to secure the rights for the tournament, is understood to be World Rugby’s preferred host broadcaster for the event. A deal is poised to be signed between the two parties in the coming weeks and comes at a time when the BBC has been criticised for a lack of live sport coverage.

BBC bosses are understood to have identified next year’s women’s rugby showpiece as a ‘national moment’ for British sport, which could have echoes of the Lionesses’ momentous 2022 European Championship triumph at Wembley.

The Rugby Football Union is aiming to sell out Twickenham for the final and there are hopes a victory on home soil for England’s Red Roses can be a catalyst for the sport in a similar way to how the Lionesses’ success sparked exponential growth across football’s Women’s Super League and raised the profile of female sport. England lost the 2017 and 2022 World Cup finals to New Zealand, but as the current world No 1 team and one of the most dominant sides in the women’s game, they will be among the favourites to reach another final.

The choice of the BBC as the host broadcaster for the event marks a change in approach from World Rugby. ITV showed the 2017 and 2022 editions as part of a rights packages deal shared with the men’s World Cup that has since been restructured to reflect the growth of the women’s game. The 2025 tournament is the first time the rights for the women’s World Cup have been sold independently.

A World Rugby spokesperson said: “World Rugby does not comment on speculation regarding commercial deals.”

The BBC, which is the longstanding rights holder for the Women’s Six Nations, also told Telegraph Sport it does not comment on sports rights negotiations.

The corporation, however, is likely to be enthused by its impressive viewing figures for this year’s Women’s Six Nations. Average Red Roses audiences jumped by almost a third, while England’s Grand Slam victory over France attracted the largest television viewership for a Red Roses game since the 2017 Women’s World Cup final in Belfast.

It remains to be seen what the BBC’s coverage for next year’s tournament would look like, but the hope is that home unions would be given front channel billing, with lower profile pool matches shown on BBC iPlayer as a bare minimum.

Free-to-air coverage has been identified as a key priority for the event, with Sarah Massey, the tournament’s managing director, telling Telegraph Sport last month it is crucial the World Cup is “widely accessible”.