World Rugby has announced a new “landmark” global women’s tournament designed to accelerate the growth of the game. The world governing body is investing £6.4million in the WXV tournament, which will launch in 2023 and feed into the expanded 2025 Rugby World Cup.
The competition will include 16 teams split into three tiers, with qualification based on regional tournaments including the Six Nations.
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said: “This is a landmark moment for the sport. Today’s announcement of a new global international 15s calendar will underpin the future success and accelerate the development of the women’s game.”
The tournament will be played every year with the exception of World Cup years, with a window between September and November in the calendar. Tuesday’s announcement comes a week after the 2021 World Cup was pushed back to 2022 due to delays in the qualification process as a result of the pandemic.
From 2025, the World Cup will expand from 12 teams to 16, with this new competition intended to provide more Test rugby to aid development. “By establishing a unified international 15s calendar and introducing WXV we are creating a platform for the women’s international teams to compete in more consistent, competitive and sustainable competitions at regional and global level,” Beaumont added.
"For the first time in rugby's history, a new, revolutionary women's 15s calendar"
This is WXV! ? pic.twitter.com/vGGeZmX4s9
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) March 16, 2021
The top three teams from the 2023 Six Nations will go into the first division of the new tournament, where they will face three nations drawn from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States (Oceania/RAN).
The second tier will include two European nations, the fourth-placed team from Oceania/RAN, plus one team from each of Oceania, Asia, and Africa, with a four-team third tier formed of two European teams, one team from Asia and the winner of an Africa v South America play-off.
Each tier will play a tournament in a single venue, with the top two tiers using a cross-pool format and the third tier using a round-robin format. There will be promotion and relegation of regional positions between the tiers based on results, although there will be no promotion or relegation involving the top tier for the first year of the competition.
World Rugby hopes the new competition will not only boost opportunities for Test-level rugby but also grow interest and investment into the women’s game to help its future development. With the announcement coming so soon after the postponement of this year’s World Cup, general manager of women’s rugby Katie Sadleir said it showed investment in the game was continuing.
“Cash is tight everywhere, but I can honestly say we’re investing more money in women’s rugby than ever before,” Sadleir said. “It’s the area we have not cut and we have urged unions to do the same… Covid has hurt us but we have ambitious plans and we’re still putting our foot down.”
‘The reality of a women’s Lions tour is bogged down in the same issues we have been discussing for years’
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 15, 2021
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