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Six Nations, SANZAAR statement: New tournaments to launch in 2026

By Liam Heagney
All Blacks versus Ireland in 2022 (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

The Six Nations and SANZAAR have issued a joint statement explaining their ambitious plans to launch a new tournament in 2026 in the existing July and November international rugby windows. All of the Six Nations and SANZAAR teams will compete and will be joined by two invitational unions.

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Six Nations and SANZAAR will own and operate the elite competition, with World Rugby creating a newly formed second-tier competition to facilitate promotion and relegation matches.

A statement read: “Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR are working in partnership, alongside global rugby stakeholders, to bring to life a new international rugby competition that will be played in the existing July and November test windows.

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“The creation of the new competition has been a collective process from the sport, including World Rugby, unions, key leagues, competitions, and crucially, the International Rugby Players.

“Set to begin in 2026, the new elite competition will feature all the Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR teams, with two spaces reserved for invitational unions to join the southern hemisphere group. A transparent selection process will be managed by SANZAAR, supported by World Rugby and the International Rugby Players, to determine these two invitational unions.

“Owned and operated by Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR, the elite competition will take place in alternating years, outside of the British and Irish Lions Tours and Rugby World Cup.

“Involved at every stage of developing the new competition, has been the International Rugby Players. This connection has been key in supporting the wider conversations around the club and international calendar taking place in parallel, and ensuring player welfare has remained a fundamental priority in all decision-making.

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“To strengthen the development pathway for emerging nations, World Rugby will create a second-tier competition that will feature teams from Europe and the rest of the world, with Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR actively involved in cementing the link between the two divisions.

“Establishing the two competitions will pave the way for promotion and relegation matches, contributing towards a valuable pathway for teams, and will support ambitions to sustain and grow the global game.

“The introduction of the new elite international competition is a testament to the strong ambition from all parties, motivated by delivering context and a stronger narrative around the July and November windows, that can genuinely excite players and bring new fans to the game.

“The impact this will have on the game will be to drive its growth and long-term sustainability. This runs alongside the work being done to add greater clarity and balance to the club and international calendar; a process Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR remain committed to helping deliver.

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Comments

5 Comments
D
Dion 377 days ago

Why more test matches, as there seems to be many of these already? Why not a Top Club Competition? Such as top club teams from Pro14, Currie Cup South Africa, Super Rugby Pacific, South American Super Rugby Team, Japanese One League team, USA Premier Rugby, English Gallagher Premiership Rugby and French Rugby.
This would give more players from other different countries the opportunity to be able to pass on new skills to others and perhaps help players move into new teams.

J
Jeremy 379 days ago

Awesome.

s
sam 380 days ago

There was talk that promo/reg would be ring fenced until 2030, I don't see anything about that here so I hope that means teams can get promoted from day one.

All the same it's more matches between the same small group of countries, and will involve way more travel than the current summer calender.

After the success of Georgia at the U20s I have been wondering why a genuine euros was never considered, and other regional comps like a proper Pacific Nations Cup with Aus, NZ, Jap and Arg joining the pacific islands and up and coming american countries.

S
Sam 380 days ago

Still seems that it slightly marginalizes other teams like Samoa, Tonga, Georgia, Romania, Portugal, Spain, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Namibia, and Hong Kong.

I would've preferred promotion-relegation or permanent additions in the Six Nations and Rugby Championship, but anyways it's worth watching how the WL concept unfolds.

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William 2 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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