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The Alan Gilpin verdict on new WXV clashing with the men's RWC

By Jon Newcombe
(Photo by Michael Bradley/AFP via Getty Images)

World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin believes there will be a positive knock-on effect from staging the inaugural edition of WXV at the same time as the men’s Rugby World Cup 2023 as “the eyes of the sporting world will be on rugby”.

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WXV is World Rugby’s new annual global competition for women’s rugby and will help to accelerate the growth of the sport. World Rugby initially unveiled the three-tiered, 18-team tournament in March 2021, two weeks after the decision was taken to postpone RWC 2021 for 12 months due to the pandemic.

That led to WXV being pushed back in the calendar but, wishing to avoid any further delays, it will now run throughout October and November when Rugby World Cup 2023 is also on in France.

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“We were not able to launch when we originally wanted to because of Covid-19 and the year-long delay of the women’s Rugby World Cup means that it now clashes with the men’s,” said Gilpin. “But the great positive of that is that the eyes of the sporting world will be on rugby.

“We have this great opportunity to use this platform to drive more and more interest in the women’s game. That is how we are looking at the positives of WXV’s timing. It’s a really exciting moment in time for the women’s game.”

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Gilpin added: “WXV is absolutely crucial to the development of the women’s game. It will give us that competitive depth that we need to make Rugby World Cup 2025 and beyond more competitive. It is a genuine pathway for making sure that every year those 18 teams in those groups of six are playing the right type of opposition to develop and, obviously, there are regional tournaments feeding into that with movement year-on-year. We really need this in the women’s game.”

England, France and Wales – the top three in this year’s TikTok Women’s Six Nations – will compete in WXV 1, alongside the top three teams from the World Rugby Pacific Four Series 2023, which features RWC 2021 winners New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the USA.

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It was confirmed last Friday that New Zealand would host the WXV 1 tournament, building on the surge of interest in women’s rugby in the country since Rugby World Cup 2021. “As you can imagine, there was a fair bit of interest in New Zealand about getting some really high-quality women’s rugby back over there as quickly as possible,” said Gilpin.

“The prospect of all the top teams going back there and playing in an incredibly competitive tournament is brilliant for the women’s game and, ultimately, what fans want to see.”

Meanwhile WXV 2, will be played in Cape Town, a venue well-versed in staging big rugby events. Scotland became the first qualifiers for WXV 2 thanks to their fourth-place finish in the Women’s Six Nations and they will be joined by either Italy or Spain – who are due to contest a play-off – and one team from Africa, Asia and Oceania.

The team that finishes fourth in the Pacific Four Series, which concludes in mid-July, will also play in WXV 2. The venue for WXV 3 has yet to be announced and the six-team line-up is also a long way to being finalised with Women’s Six Nations wooden spoonists Ireland the only confirmed team at this juncture.

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Ireland will be joined by the loser of the Italy-Spain play-off and a qualifier from Africa, Asia, Oceania and South America.

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