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World Rugby ‘could not wait any longer’ to launch WXV

By Martyn Thomas
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 03: Sally Horrox, World Rugby Director of Women's Rugby during the 2021 Rugby World Cup Tournament Opening Press Conference at The Grand Sky City on October 03, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Greg Bowker - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Sally Horrox believes World Rugby had a “moral and sporting responsibility” to launch its new annual global competition WXV this year, even though the inaugural edition will clash with Rugby World Cup 2023.

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World Rugby initially unveiled the three-tiered, 18-team tournament in March 2021 with the aim to increase competition for nations across the globe and drive competitiveness ahead of RWC 2025.
That announcement came two weeks after the decision was taken to postpone RWC 2021 for 12 months due to the pandemic, meaning in turn that WXV could not get under way until this year.

On Friday, World Rugby released more details about the inaugural campaign, confirming New Zealand and South Africa as hosts of WXV 1 and WXV 2 respectively, and unveiling a new brandmark it says gives the competition a “fresh, unique visual identity”.

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The WXV 3 host will not be announced until at least the end of July, when all six qualifiers have been confirmed, but we now know that the second and third tiers will kick off on the weekend of 14 October, the same date as RWC 2023 quarter-finals are scheduled to be played.

WXV 1 will get under way in New Zealand a week later, meaning the top division’s third and final round will be staged on the weekend of 4 November.

That decision, taken in consultation with unions, ensures those matches will be played a week after the RWC 2023 final and will give the competition’s top tier “clear water” as it reaches its conclusion.

Horrox, World Rugby Chief of Women’s Rugby, admitted it is not an ideal time to launch the competition, but she believes WXV has an opportunity to “ride the wave” generated by the men’s tournament in France.

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“It’s fair to say this year, the imperative was making sure that we host this competition to give our unions more competition, improve standards,” she said.

“That’s the absolute imperative, we could not wait any longer to do that. We felt a real moral and sporting responsibility and from here we kick on and we’ll get bigger and better.”

World Rugby is being supported with “multi-million pound investment funding” from partners Mastercard, Capgemini and Gallagher in its delivery of WXV.
That funding is guaranteed for an initial two-year period as the game prepares for the expanded 16-team RWC 2025 in England, at which point a review into the first two editions will be undertaken.
“In 2025, we break WXV [for RWC 2025] and we will take a really clear look at it with our union partners to design, improve, develop it in whatever way is felt best for the game from ’26 onwards,” Horrox said.

Seven teams have already booked their place in the end-of-year competition via their results in European competitions.

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England, France and Wales – the top three in this year’s TikTok Women’s Six Nations – will compete in WXV 1, which Horrox confirmed will be staged in three sites across both the North and South Islands of New Zealand.

They will be joined by the top three teams from the World Rugby Pacific Four Series 2023, which features RWC 2021 winners New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the USA and will conclude in Ottawa on 14 July.

WXV
Ruby Tui of New Zealand reacts after the win during the Pool A Rugby World Cup 2021 match between New Zealand and Scotland at Northland Events Centre on October 22, 2022, in Whangarei, New Zealand. (Photo by Fiona Goodall – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Scotland, meanwhile, have qualified for WXV 2 thanks to their fourth-place finish in the 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 inaugural edition of WXV 2 will be played in Cape Town. The team that finishes fourth in the Pacific Four Series will also play in WXV 2.

Ireland’s prize for their first wooden spoon in 19 years is a place in WXV 3, in which the loser of the Italy-Spain play-off and one team from Africa, Asia, Oceania and South America will also compete.

WXV will increase the guaranteed number of tests contested by participating nations, who will each play three matches in a cross-pool format, and World Rugby hope grouping teams by performance will result in more competitive fixtures.

According to former Red Roses captain Sarah Hunter, who was unveiled as an ambassador for Gallagher’s World Rugby partnership on Wednesday, that will be key to WXV’s potential success.

“I think having the tiered system allows the best teams in the world to be playing against each other, to be pushing each other while giving other teams the most appropriate competition level to develop, improve and to push themselves,” she said. “Having recently played for England, [to know] that you’ll be playing some of the best teams in the world, it can only make you better.”

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Jon 9 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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