World Rugby has officially launched its new women’s international competition concept, WXV, with New Zealand and South Africa named as the first hosts.
Today’s (Friday’s) announcement comes after rugby union’s world governing body first detailed plans for a new three-tier 15s competition back in March 2021, as part of a full overhaul of the women’s international calendar starting in 2023.
Commencing in October, WXV has a mission to raise the profile and competitiveness of women’s 15s by providing the global platform between Rugby World Cups to increase the reach, impact and value of the sport, growing the game as a whole.
Crucially, it will double the number of annual international fixtures for most competing teams, combining with World Rugby’s ‘Accelerate’ programme with the intention to raise standards at Rugby World Cup 2025, set to be hosted by England, and beyond.
WXV represents the first international Test competition outside of World Cups, with World Rugby having yet to drive through long-held plans to establish a similar event for the men’s game. On the back of hosting and winning a record-breaking Rugby World Cup 2021, postponed to last year due to Covid-19, New Zealand will welcome the world’s top teams in the six-team top level WXV 1 across three match weekends on October 21, 28 and November 4.
Cape Town in South Africa will play host to the six-team second level WXV 2 with matches being played across the weekends of October 14, 21 and 28. Both competitions will be played in a cross-pool format, with stadia still to be confirmed.
England, France and Wales have so far secured their place in WXV 1. Scotland have booked a place in WXV 2, and Ireland are confirmed for WXV 3. Italy will play-off against Spain to determine the final European representatives in WXV 2 and WXV 3.
The World Rugby Pacific Four Series 2023 will determine the remaining three teams in WXV 1 and one team in WXV 2 with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and USA contesting the competition featuring the top two teams in Oceania and North America.
The remaining places will be determined via regional qualifiers, starting in May with competitions in Africa, Asia and Oceania being played in Madagascar, Kazakhstan and Australia, respectively, while Brazil and Colombia will meet in a two-leg play-off to determine South America’s qualifier for WXV 3.
The third level WXV 3 dates will mirror the same weekends as WXV 2 with World Rugby stating the host will be named once the participating team picture becomes clearer “in order to maximise attendance, reach and impact”.
World Rugby has today unveiled a new brandmark which aims to give WXV its own brand platform to connect with women’s rugby fans and new audiences, while setting the tournament apart from its existing competition brands.
WXV is being supported by sponsors Mastercard, Capgemini and Gallagher, with World Rugby also injecting a multi-million-pound investment over an initial two-year period ahead of the expanded 16-team Rugby World Cup 2025. A full review of the concept will be undertaken in 2025.
World Rugby chief of women’s rugby, Sally Horrox, said: “WXV is the flagship of the competitions pillar of our accelerating the global development of women in rugby strategy. It is more than a world-class competition, it is a statement of intent, a vehicle to supercharge the reach, competitiveness and value of elite women’s rugby and growing rugby more broadly, projecting the sport to new audiences in new markets.
“We are on a three-year sprint to an expanded Rugby World Cup 2025 in England and WXV will ensure that the world’s top teams will have access to an unprecedented and sustainable level of annual fixtures and a transparent competition pathway for all that will boost performance.
“In addition, our relationship with participating teams is more than simply an event owner. We will be a partner, a supporter and investor, with our ‘Accelerate’ programme helping unions advance the women’s game on and off the field, not just in the short term at Rugby World Cup 2025, but as a long-term commitment through to a transformative (United States) Rugby World Cup in 2033.”