New three-tier global competition for women’s rugby unveiled

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union – Rugby World Cup – World Rugby and the Japan Rugby 2019 Organising Committee hold news conference ahead of knockout matches

(Reuters) – World Rugby has launched a new annual three-tier global women’s tournament as it seek to create more a competitive international landscape and grow the Women’s Rugby World Cup to 16 teams.

WXV will start in 2023 and has initially been supported by a 6.4-million pound ($8.8 million) investment from the global governing body for the first two years. It will be hosted in a September-October international competition window, except in a World Cup year.

“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,” World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said in a statement.

“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.”

Entry into the competition will be via regional qualifiers. WXV 1, the top tier, will consist of six teams – the leading three sides from the European Six Nations and the top three from a qualifier featuring Australia, Canada, New Zealand and USA.

There will initially be no relegation from this tier, with the finals tournament played in a single location.

WXV 2 will comprise the next two teams from the Six Nations, the fourth-placed team from the cross-regional tournament featuring Oceania and North American teams, and another side each from Oceania, Asia and Africa.

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It will also be in a single location and the bottom team will be relegated.

WXV 3 will be made up of four teams and include two more from Europe, one from Asia and the winners of an Africa versus South America playoff. The top side will be promoted to WXV 2.

“This is an ambitious, long-term commitment to make the global game more competitive, to grow the women’s game and support the expansion of Rugby World Cup to 16 teams from 2025 and beyond,” Beaumont added.

The 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup, to be staged in New Zealand and featuring 12 teams, was postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

($1 = 0.7239 pounds)

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