World Rugby has announced details of a new annual global women’s 15s competition model and international playing windows that will supercharge the women’s game.
Underscoring its commitment to increase competition, commercial and fan engagement opportunities while raising competitiveness of the women’s game on the road to an expanded 16-team Rugby World Cup 2025, World Rugby has launched WXV, a three-tiered annual competition model that will start in 2023.
Supported by an initial £6.4 million World Rugby investment, the three WXV competitions will feature 16 teams and will be hosted within a new September-October global competition window, except in a Rugby World Cup year.
Teams will qualify annually into the WXV competitions courtesy of their finishing positions within the respective existing annual regional competitions, such as the Women’s Six Nations. These regional competitions, played within a new regional window, must be completed by June each year.
To support the implementation of the WXV competitions, a new annual cross-region competition will be established which will act as one of the principle qualification routes for the top tier of WXV. This will feature Australia, Canada, New Zealand and USA. This represents a huge step forward, providing a regular annual international competition for these teams, where previously there was none.
How it will work
WXV 1 will consist of six teams and be played in a cross-pool format, at a standalone tournament in one location, which will be determined on a year-by-year basis.
Participating teams will include the top three teams from the Women’s Six Nations (Europe) and the top three teams of the cross-regional tournament featuring Australia, Canada, New Zealand and USA (Oceania/Rugby Americas North (RAN)). Each team will play three matches.
There will be no promotion or relegation in the first cycle (2023 and 2024) of WXV 1.
The WXV 2 competition will consist of six teams, playing in a cross-pool format, as a standalone tournament in one location, which will be determined on a year-by-year basis.
Participating teams for 2023 will include two teams from Europe, the fourth-placed team from the cross-regional tournament featuring Australia, Canada, New Zealand and USA (Oceania/RAN) alongside one team from Oceania, Asia and Africa.
The sixth-placed regional position in the WXV 2 competition at the end of each season will be relegated to WXV 3.
WXV 3 will also be played as a cross-pool format, made up of six teams: two from Europe, one from Asia, one from Oceania, one from Africa and one from South America. The Group winners head up to group 2. The fate of the bottom team will be decided by a play-off with the next best side, according to the World Rugby Women’s Rankings.
Pathway to RWC 2025
WXV will provide a pathway to Rugby World Cup 2025 with at least the five top ranked non-qualified teams at the end of WXV 2024 qualifying for the tournament.
Supporting all unions
Recognising that globally women’s high-performance programmes are currently at differing levels and stages, World Rugby is committed to work in partnership with unions to support collective ambitions to progress women’s high-performance programmes forward in a realistic and appropriate pace of development to ensure optimal performance within the WXV.
Source: World Rugby