World Rugby has confirmed Australia and the United States as the next two hosts of the men's Rugby World Cup.

The men's tournament will be held in Australia in 2027, and the women's World Cup will be hosted Down Under two years later. 

Australia has not hosted the men's tournament since 2003, when Jonny Wilkinson's last-gasp drop-goal ensured victory for England over the Wallabies in the final.

The USA, meanwhile, will host the competition for the very first time in 2031, with the women's tournament held there in 2033. The next women's World Cup, in 2025, will take place in England.

World Rugby confirmed the news at its annual meeting in Dublin on Thursday, promising to deliver "a golden decade for the sport".

Bill Beaumont, chairman of World Rugby, said: "We have approved three exceptional Rugby World Cup host nations – England, Australia and the USA – providing unprecedented certainty and an unparalleled opportunity to accelerate the growth and impact of rugby globally. It is great for rugby, for fans and for the host nations.

"Today is a landmark moment for the sport, and an exciting development for fans. I would like to congratulate everyone involved in making this dream a reality as we look to deliver a truly global sport for all."

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan labelled it as "an historic day for rugby in Australia", while USA Rugby chief executive Ross Young said: "I speak for the rugby community and fans across the United States when I express our sincere gratitude to World Rugby for their trust and endorsement of our vision to grow this incredible sport exponentially across our country."

The next men's World Cup will be held in France in 2023, with South Africa the reigning champions following their triumph over England in 2019 in Japan.

Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek believes he still has the quality to play for England and dreams of featuring at the 2022 World Cup.

Loftus-Cheek earned his maiden call-up to Gareth Southgate's squad when on loan at Crystal Palace in November 2017, producing a man-of-the-match performance on his senior debut in a 0-0 draw with Germany.

The 26-year-old was then a part of Southgate's 23-man party for the 2018 World Cup and appeared as a second-half substitute in the opening win over Tunisia.

However, he did not feature for the rest of the tournament, in which England were beaten semi-finalists by Croatia, and injuries forced him to withdraw from each national squad during the 2018-19 campaign.

A ruptured Achilles suffered in May 2019 kept him on the sidelines for over a year, but Loftus-Cheek now features regularly at Chelsea under Thomas Tuchel after a season on loan at Fulham in 2020-21.

Loftus-Cheek has played his most Premier League minutes for Chelsea this term (1,309) and started his most games (13), and he insists he still has the ability to perform for England, who head to Qatar in November.

"It's always a dream for me to play for England at a World Cup, so it was an incredible experience to be part of the squad in 2018 off the back of my first full Premier League season at Crystal Palace," he told Sky Sports. 

"I was feeling good but I've not been in the fold now for a while. I still want to play for England and I still believe my qualities will allow me to.

"I'll keep pushing but the focus right now is on getting a top-four finish and winning the FA Cup with Chelsea."

Loftus-Cheek's attention will turn to an FA Cup final against Liverpool on Saturday, after Chelsea visit strugglers Leeds United in the league on Wednesday.

The midfielder, who made his 50th league start for Chelsea last week, also believes his long-awaited chance to feature regularly offers those in the Blues' academy hope and a clear pathway to the first team.

"Chelsea have always brought through talent and made talent coming through the ranks," he added.

"For me, maybe I didn't really have anyone to look up to. Other than John Terry, there weren't players coming through from the academy to the first team regularly.

"I didn't have the idol to look up to and see where I could go but now you see the players who have reached the first team and hopefully the boys can see there is a pathway and see it can be done in different ways.

"You might not just go straight through, you might have to go on loan, but the pathway is there to end up in the Chelsea first team.

"If you're coming through from the Under 18s or Under 23s, just training with the first team can help so much.

"You can soak in so much information, but it does reach a point where you've played with the first team for a bit and you feel you can handle that level then for sure there's no substitute for playing regularly – whether that's in the Championship or a different country.

"You just need to get that stimulus of playing every week, and that's the foundation of your footballing knowledge. It helps you to better understand your body.

"I didn't necessarily have that consistency growing up so it was very difficult for me to have that base of fitness and confidence in myself but everyone has a different journey.

"Hopefully we can inspire those boys in the Under-23s and below that it can be done."

FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against Ecuador over the potential use of an ineligible player in their successful World Cup qualifying campaign.

Chile last week asked the world football governing body to investigate allegations that right-back Byron Castillo is actually Colombian and not eligible to represent Ecuador.

Castillo played eight times for Ecuador in South American qualifying, including a goalless draw with Chile in September and a 2-0 victory in November.

La Roja finished seventh, meaning they just missed out on a play-off spot, but believe Ecuador should be expelled from the quadrennial competition.

And FIFA confirmed on Wednesday that it is looking into the recent complaint made by the Federacion de Futbol de Chile.

The statement read: "FIFA has decided to open disciplinary proceedings in relation to Byron David Castillo Segura's possible breach of the call criteria for the indicated matches. 

"In this context, the FEF and the Peruvian Football Federation have been invited to present their positions before the FIFA Disciplinary Committee."

Ecuador have already been drawn in Group A at the World Cup, alongside hosts Qatar, as well as Senegal and the Netherlands.

FIFA sanctioned Bolivia for fielding ineligible player Nelson Cabrera in 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Peru and Chile, awarding their opponents 3-0 wins in both instances.

FIFA has confirmed Brazil and Argentina will have to replay last September's abandoned World Cup qualifier after rejecting appeals from both countries' football federations. 

The original fixture in Sao Paolo was abandoned after just five minutes when Brazilian health officials entered the pitch, with players Emiliano Martinez, Emiliano Buendia, Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso accused by the Brazilian government of providing false information on their immigration forms and breaking the nation's Covid-19 laws.

FIFA's original ruling on the matter was announced in February, ordering the fixture to be replayed with all four of those players suspended and handing fines to both sides.

Both countries' federations subsequently lodged appeals against those measures, but FIFA has now confirmed the fixture will be replayed at an as-yet unspecified date and venue.

A statement from world football's governing body on Monday said: "The FIFA Appeal Committee has taken decisions on the appeals lodged by the Brazilian Football Association (CBF) and the Argentinian Football Association (AFA).

"After analysing the submissions of both parties and considering all circumstances of the case, the Appeal Committee confirmed that the match would be replayed and also upheld the fine of CHF 50,000 that was imposed on both associations as a result of the abandonment."

Brazil and Argentina have both qualified for the tournament in Qatar in comfortable fashion, with Brazil sitting top of the CONMEBOL qualification group with 45 points after an as-yet unbeaten campaign, and Argentina second with 39 points, meaning the replayed fixture will have no impact on the final standings.

United States centre-back Miles Robinson is a major doubt for the World Cup after rupturing the Achilles tendon in his left leg.

The 25-year-old sustained the non-contact injury in the 14th minute of Atlanta United's 4-1 MLS win over Chicago Fire on Saturday.

Robinson, who has been capped 21 times by USA, slammed the turf in frustration and was stretchered off.

Atlanta confirmed on Monday that the defender will undergo surgery to rectify the damage.

While no timeframe has been given for Robinson's return, he is not likely to play again before Qatar 2022, which runs from November 21 until December 18.

He had become a regular for USA alongside Walker Zimmerman in their World Cup qualifying campaign, but coach Gregg Berhalter may now be forced to rethink his plans.

Berhalter's side have been drawn in a group alongside England, Iran and one of Scotland, Ukraine or Wales.

Didier Deschamps and France have agreed not to discuss a new contract until after the World Cup but that does not mean Zinedine Zidane is guaranteed to take charge of Les Blues, says French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet.

Deschamps became France boss in 2012 and has since signed two contract extensions, the latter of which came after World Cup glory at Russia 2018.

The 53-year-old's current deal expires after Les Blues aim to defend their title at Qatar 2022, leading to speculation that former Real Madrid boss Zidane will be appointed after the tournament.

Le Graet suggested the appointment of Zidane has not already been pre-agreed as he placed his support behind Deschamps.

"We both agreed not to renew him until after the World Cup," Le Graet said of Deschamps to L'Equipe. "He's not mad at me. He adores me. I think he will never say anything bad about me. 

"He lost a game in the European Championship and for much of France, he should have been fired [after the last-16 exit to Switzerland at Euro 2020].

"We'll see at the end of the World Cup if he wants to renew. We will spend time in Guingamp to discuss."

When pressed for an answer as to Zidane taking charge as Deschamps' successor, Le Graet responded: "First of all, you have to be careful with what you say. Zidane showed in Madrid that he had qualities that were barely imagined. 

"In the minds of the French, he could be a successor. But that is not my goal. We'll see. If Didier and I split up, he will definitely be one of the options.

"I'm not going to say to myself: 'I hope Didier says he doesn't want to renew and I go see Zidane'. Do you see me saying today: 'It is Zidane who is going to replace Deschamps'? We'll see.

"Maybe Zidane will take charge of Paris Saint-Germain. To train the national team you have to be free. But today we will do everything possible to put Didier in the best conditions to win this World Cup."

Indeed, Zidane emerged as a favourite when reports circulated in France that Mauricio Pochettino's PSG job was under threat after Champions League elimination at the last-16 stage to Real Madrid.

Even if Zidane is available, Le Graet insists he has learnt from the mistakes of his predecessor and will not seek a new manager while Deschamps is still at the helm.

"I will never do what my predecessor [Jean-Pierre Escalettes] did, who had already signed Laurent Blanc before going to South Africa for the [2010] World Cup," he added.

"[Raymond] Domenech was already on alert. How do you expect the players to respect you when a successor has already been named? 

"It doesn't work and never will. In no case will I see another coach before having lunch with Didier after the World Cup."

Brazil legend Dani Alves is dreaming of winning the World Cup for the first time in Qatar to leave a legacy in the twilight of his career.

Alves turned 39 on Friday but the veteran Barcelona full-back is still going strong at the highest level.

The veteran has won an incredible haul of medals during his illustrious club career, while he helped his country win the Copa America twice and captained Brazil to Olympic glory in Tokyo last year.

It is 20 years since the Selecao last won the World Cup and Alves missed the 2018 tournament in Russia due to injury.

The Barca great says he has given plenty of thought to what might happen if he lifts the World Cup and hopes to realise that ambition this year.

He told Marca: "This is a question I have been asking myself since I started playing. After I win, what happens? The answer is always the same. We don't live for trophies, we live for legacy.

"But, not for the legacy we leave for people, but for the legacy we leave in people. This is the most important title I'm going to win.

"Is winning the World Cup a dream? Of course it is, but it is the same for all the teams that participate and for everyone who strives to be better every day."

Brazil have been drawn in Group G with Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon in Qatar.

Inter's unlikely 2009-10 Champions League success under Jose Mourinho could inspire Cameroon to a shock World Cup triumph in Qatar, according to the former Nerazzurri and Indomitable Lions striker Samuel Eto'o.

The Cameroon great was part of the Inter side that completed a stunning treble in 2009-10, winning a fifth consecutive Scudetto, the Coppa Italia and their first Champions League or European Cup title in 45 years.

Diego Milito's brace was enough to down Bayern Munich in the final of UEFA's elite club competition, with Eto'o assisting the Argentina international for his second goal to wrap up victory.

Inter overcame Chelsea and Barcelona either side of defeating of CSKA Moscow en route to the final, and Eto'o – who is now president of the Cameroonian Football Federation – optimistically believes his country can follow the Nerazzurri's example at Qatar 2022.

"I don't see why he can't win it," he told reporters in Milan, where the 41-year-old has returned to announce a charity friendly game in San Siro on May 23 that will include the likes of Francesco Totti and Lionel Messi.

"I believe that in order to win the World Cup you don't need to be monsters or aliens, you need good preparation, a strong mentality and a pinch of madness.

"I won a bit in my career and to do it I gave everything. 

"I always take Inter as an example: no one at the beginning of the 2009-10 season thought we could win [the Champions League] and instead Mourinho did something crazy, with a group of men and warriors.

"I would like something like that for Cameroon too."

Cameroon's best performance at a World Cup saw them famously reach the 1990 quarter-finals, but they did not make it out of the group in any of their other six participations, failing to even register a point at either South Africa 2010 or Brazil 2014.

Having missed out on Russia 2018, Cameroon will have to overcome the world's number-one ranked side Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland in Group G later this year.

Chile have demanded FIFA investigate allegations that World Cup qualification rivals Ecuador used an ineligible player during their successful campaign.

A statement from the Federacion de Futbol de Chile outlined their belief that right back Byron Castillo was born in Colombia in 1995, not in Ecuador in 1998, as had previously been thought to be the case.

Castillo made eight appearances for Ecuador in their World Cup qualifying campaign, with La Tri set to take part in the tournament in Qatar at the end of this year.

Ecuador have been drawn in Group A alongside hosts Qatar, as well as Senegal and the Netherlands.

However, Chile released a statement on Thursday detailing their allegations around Castillo and demanding an investigation from FIFA.

La Roja finished seventh in South American World Cup qualifying, just missing out on a play-off spot.

"We inform that, on May 4, through the Carlezzo Abogados studio, we sent to the FIFA Disciplinary Commission a complaint against the player Byron David Castillo Segura and the Ecuadorian Football Federation (FEF), due to the use of false birth certificate, false declaration of age and false nationality by the aforementioned player," the statement read.

"We understand, based on all the information and documents collected, that the facts are too serious and must be thoroughly investigated by FIFA.

"There are innumerable proofs that the player was born in Colombia, in the city of Tumaco, on July 25, 1995, and not on November 10, 1998, in the Ecuadorian city of General Villamil Playas.

"The investigations carried out in Ecuador, including a legal report by the National Directorate of Civil Registry, the highest authority in the matter in this country, declared the existence of inconsistencies in the birth certificate presented by the player, and reported that this document did not exist in its internal files, pointing out other weaknesses in the document, to conclude that it was possibly fraudulent.

"In addition, an investigative commission of the Ecuadorian Football Federation, aimed at clarifying the irregularities existing in the records of players before this federation, concluded that the player was Colombian.

"All that, obviously, was fully known to the FEF. The world of football cannot close its eyes to so many tests. The practice of serious and conscious irregularities in the registration of players cannot be accepted, especially when we talk about a world competition. There must be fair play on and off the pitch."

 

The Football Association has denied reports that it plans to replace 'Three Lions' as England's official World Cup anthem for Qatar 2022.

British newspaper The Sun claimed on Thursday that The FA is reviewing other options over concerns the song, which has been a fans' favourite since Euro 96, offends other nations.

Luka Modric said after Croatia's win over England in the 2018 World Cup semi-final that his side were additionally motivated to win due to the song's lyrics.

It had been suggested that 'Sweet Caroline', which became synonymous with England's run to last year's Euro 2020 final, would replace the Baddiel and Skinner hit.

However, the FA has released a statement denying that is the case.

"Contrary to reports this morning, The FA still plays Three Lions at major Wembley matches and has never had any intention of doing otherwise," the statement read.

"The song belongs to the fans and is about the hope of following the England team. 

"It was requested by The FA to be played as one of our team songs at the 2018 World Cup and at the EUROs last summer, and this is our plan at tournaments going forwards."

Carlo Ancelotti has revealed he is likely to call time on his coaching career at club level once he leaves Real Madrid, but is open to staying in charge of Los Blancos for another 10 years.

The 62-year-old last week became the first ever coach to win each of Europe's top five leagues when guiding Madrid to LaLiga glory.

Ancelotti's legendary managerial career has spanned 26 years and across 11 jobs, including two stints with Spanish giants Madrid.

But the Italian is now thinking about the future and hopes to spend more time travelling and with his family.

"After Real, yes, I'll probably stop," he told Amazon Prime. "But if the club keeps me here for 10 years, I'll train for 10 years.

"I'd like to be with my grandchildren, go on vacation with my wife – there are so many things to do that I have left out that I would like to do. 

"There are many places I have never been. I have never been to Australia. I have never been to Rio de Janeiro. 

"I'd like to visit my sister more often. The day I quit, I'll have all these things to do."

 

Ancelotti has won 22 trophies, including Serie A with Milan in 2004, the Premier League with Chelsea in 2010, Ligue 1 with PSG in 2013, the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich in 2017 and LaLiga with Madrid this year.

With his latest league triumph, Ancelotti became the oldest manager to win the Spanish top flight at 62, two years older than Fabio Capello was when lifting the trophy with Madrid in 2006-07.

Having also won a record-equalling three European Cups at club level, Ancelotti has suggested he may be tempted into managing an international side in time for the 2026 World Cup.

"Yes, there could be a national team but now it is premature [to discuss that]," he said. "Certainly not for this World Cup. But for the one in 2026, why not?"

Asked if he has any interest in taking charge of Canada, who will jointly host the tournament along with the United States and Mexico, Ancelotti said: "Why not? They have done very well".

Liverpool fans are a creative bunch, particularly when it comes to making up songs for their idols.

The latest favourite of the Kop is a little ditty about Jurgen Klopp to the tune of 'I feel fine' by The Beatles, though it has also been re-worked to be about the Reds' manager's wife Ulla after her husband revealed the part she played in convincing him to sign a new deal at Anfield.

While Klopp appreciates the sentiment, he has always said he prefers to hear songs about his players, and there are plenty of those too.

You have to be quite a special player to get your song before you have even signed for the club, though, and it was testament to the excitement around the arrival of Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich in 2020 that not only did he already have a song by the time he was signed, but he even whistled it in his own announcement video.

It is a fairly simple number, as most of the best football songs are, where fans just sing "Thiago, Thiago Alcantara!" to the tune of 'Cuba' by the Gibson Brothers.

Arguably the best part about it, though, was the accompanying video that found its way onto social media, which showed Thiago's head superimposed over a woman walking by, while three men, made up to be Klopp, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, danced in the background.

Reds fans certainly feel like dancing right now, seeing their team still in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple in early May, with the EFL Cup already in the bag, and Thiago is very much at the centre of the march on the remaining three fronts in the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.

The 31-year-old had a tricky first season in England, having to contest with playing in stadiums with no fans, then picking up an injury that kept him out for several months, before returning to a team whose season had fallen apart after practically the entire defence had also been wiped out by injury.

Thiago showed his class by the end of the campaign to help Liverpool qualify for the Champions League, and although some still cast doubt on his suitability for Klopp's team, he has certainly proven his importance this year as the Merseysiders look to cement their legacy as one of the best teams of all time.

He has continued to suffer from injury issues, and has so far only managed to start in 15 of Liverpool's 34 Premier League games, but it is clear to see the difference he makes when he is available.

In those 15 games, Liverpool have won 14 (93 per cent) and drawn one, which was the recent 2-2 at title rivals Manchester City. When Thiago has not been in the starting XI, the Reds have won 11 of those 19 outings (58 per cent), drawing six and losing two.

They have conceded just four times in the 15 games he has started, compared to 18 in the games without, while averaging 2.9 goals for per game when he starts opposed to 2.3 when he does not.

It is only really of late that the player has been getting recognition for his impact, which is not entirely surprising as he has certainly stepped things up in recent games.

It is not the first time he has done so towards the business end. In 2019-20, his final season at Bayern, he came through to play a crucial role in the German giants' run to the Champions League final, starring in the 1-0 win against Paris Saint-Germain in Lisbon as the Bavarians went on to win a Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League treble.

Thiago has finally been able to put a run of games together at Liverpool without being interrupted by injury, and Klopp's team are very much reaping the benefits.

He is not a player you particularly want to measure by numbers alone, such is the beauty with which he plays the game when in top form, but it is equally hard to ignore the increase in his figures of late.

Having not even attempted 100 passes in a game this season beforehand, in his last three starts, Thiago attempted 113 against Manchester United, completing 108, attempted 121 against Everton, completing 119, and attempted 103 against Villarreal, completing 99, as Liverpool went on to win all three with relative ease, not conceding any goals.

Speaking of which, it is not just his passing that makes him one of the best midfielders in the game. He has also shown the best of his defensive ability, particularly in the Champions League.

Of midfielders to have attempted at least 10 tackles in the competition this season, only Villarreal's Giovani Lo Celso (86.67) and Thiago's Liverpool team-mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (83.33) have better tackle success percentage than his 81.82.

As well as increasing his already impressive medal haul, one other inspiration for producing such fine form could be Thiago wanting to give Spain boss Luis Enrique something to think about ahead of the World Cup later this year.

La Roja will be among the favourites in Qatar, though such are the riches in midfield they can boast, Thiago has found himself largely out of the squad since last year's rescheduled Euro 2020 tournament, where he only played 66 minutes as Spain reached the semi-finals.

During the tournament when questions were raised as to why the former Bayern and Barcelona man was not featuring more, Luis Enrique said: "Thiago is a very good player. You know and everybody knows about his quality, but we are a strong team and I try to give them minutes.

"He's helping the squad a lot because he's an experienced player and we are very happy to have him in the squad.

"After that, I have to decide and my decision speaks much better than me."

It could be that the Spain head coach is trying to leave space for young prospects such as Pedri and Gavi to come through, but at a major tournament like the World Cup, you would imagine those two and others could only prosper from sharing a squad with someone like Thiago.

The player's club boss certainly thinks so, with Klopp telling reporters at a news conference ahead of Liverpool's Champions League semi-final second leg in Villarreal: "When Thiago is in the shape he's in now, he would play for any team in the world and that is Spain as well.

"They are an incredibly talented team but the shape he's in, he'd play for every national team. Thiago needs to be fit and gain rhythm and he can show his best form."

Thiago will take to the field in Spain on Tuesday to try and guide himself and his team to another Champions League final, with Liverpool leading the Yellow Submarine 2-0 from the first leg.

As he has proven in recent weeks, Thiago's best form is quite a thing to witness, and whether it is in the red of Liverpool or the red of Spain, it is well worth singing about.

FIFA have ordered the Senegalese Football Federation to play a competitive match behind closed doors and fined them $180,000 after a series of incidents in March's World Cup qualifier against Egypt, including the use of laser pens to target Liverpool star Mohamed Salah.

After Egypt and Senegal each claimed 1-0 home wins in their two-legged play-off for World Cup qualification, Salah was targeted by a number of laser pens as he missed his penalty in the decisive shoot-out in Dakar, which Senegal went on to win.

Egypt lodged a complaint after their defeat, which came little over a month after the Pharaohs had lost the Africa Cup of Nations final on penalties to the same opponents, also claiming Salah was subject to racist abuse and their team bus targeted by missiles before the game.

Just as he did in February's Africa Cup of Nations final, Salah's Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane netted the winning spot-kick to hand Senegal a place at the Qatar World Cup.

Now, FIFA's disciplinary committee has punished the African champions for a series of offences, including a "failure to implement existing safety rules and failure to ensure that law and order are maintained in the stadium."

Senegal have also been punished for an "invasion of the field of play, throwing of objects, lighting of fireworks, use of laser pointers and use of objects to transmit a message that is not appropriate for a sports event."

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Football Federation have also been ordered to play a match behind closed doors, and received a fine of $154,000, after a pitch invasion that followed their away-goals elimination against Ghana in Abuja.

Senegal will be making their third appearance at the FIFA World Cup later this year, and will kick the tournament off when they face the Netherlands in Group A on November 21 – the first time since 1954 where the tournament's opening match doesn’t involve either the hosts or the defending champions.

Spain have been disqualified from the 2023 Rugby World Cup after being found to have fielded an ineligible player in two preliminary matches.

South African Gavin Van den Berg played twice for Spain, but his eligibility was questioned by rivals Romania, with World Rugby deciding he did not fit the criteria.

To qualify on residency rules, players involved in qualifying needed to have lived in their chosen country for 36 consecutive months.

Spain have pinned the blame on an alleged forgery of Van den Berg's passport.

World Rugby said in a statement that it had imposed a 10-point deduction from Spain's qualifying points total in European qualifying, also imposing a £25,000 fine and triggering a suspended £50,000 punishment that dated back to the 2019 Rugby World Cup qualifiers and related to another ineligibility case.

Spain can appeal against the punishment, but barring a successful challenge their place at the tournament in France will go to Romania, who will face South Africa, Ireland, Scotland and an Asia/Pacific qualifying team.

The Spanish Rugby Federation said in a statement: "As this very harsh sanction occurs as a result of an alleged forgery of the aforementioned player's passport, the Spanish Rugby Federation (FER) continues with the extraordinary disciplinary procedure initiated at the time and will shortly call a press conference to offer all the explanations that are required."

Ukraine's hopes of reaching the World Cup will be decided in early June after new dates were confirmed for the postponed play-off games.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine meant the original plan to play Scotland in March was shelved and the knock-on effect was that Wales have also been kept waiting.

To reach the finals in Qatar, Ukraine must win away to Scotland on Wednesday, June 1, before coming out on top in another away game against Wales on June 5.

Wales secured their place in the final round of the play-offs with a 2-1 victory against Austria on March 24, which had been the original date for the Scotland-Ukraine fixture.

The winner of the final European play-off will go into a World Cup group alongside England, Iran and the United States.

UEFA announced the new play-off dates on Thursday, as well as explaining how its Nations League opening fixtures, also set for the June international window, would be rearranged to allow for Ukraine, Wales and Scotland to fulfil their World Cup commitments.

European football's governing body said it had held "extensive discussions" with eight national associations who would be affected by the World Cup games being switched to the intended Nations League dates and said there had been "a remarkable spirit of solidarity and cooperation" in negotiating an updated schedule.

Wales were due to play Poland in the Nations League on June 3, but that game has been switched to June 1, meaning Rob Page's team will have a competitive game in the build-up to facing either Scotland or Ukraine.

Scotland had been due to play Ukraine in the Nations League on June 7, but that game has been shunted back to September 21, with both teams then due to play three games in seven days.


Nations League group A4 and B1 games affected by World Cup play-offs, with new dates:

June 1: A4 - Poland v Wales
June 4: B1 - Armenia v Republic of Ireland
June 8: A4 - Belgium v Poland, Wales v Netherlands; Scotland v Armenia, Republic of Ireland v Ukraine
June 11: A4 - Netherlands v Poland, Wales v Belgium
June 14: A4 - Netherlands v Wales, Poland v Belgium
September 21: B1 - Scotland v Ukraine
September 24: B1 - Scotland v Republic of Ireland, Armenia v Ukraine
September 27: B1 - Republic of Ireland v Armenia, Ukraine v Scotland

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