A brand new global women’s rugby union competition — WXV — was announced yesterday and is set to launch in 2023. The three-tiered event will feature 16 teams in total and take place annually, with the exception of active World Cup years.
What will this mean for the Women’s Six Nations?
The new global competition will be split into three tiers — WXV 1, WXV 2, and WXV 3. WXV 1 is the top tier and will feature six teams, three of which will qualify from the Women’s Six Nations.
As a result, the six-team tournament will take on an added significance. England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales will no longer be battling it out for just the Women’s Six Nations title each year, but also for the chance to play in WXV 1.
Even if there is no chance of taking home the overall trophy, teams will continue to compete for second and third place. It should make for a more dramatic and exciting Women’s Six Nations.
Will there be an increase in competitive opportunities for national teams?
Once qualified for WXV 1, the three European countries will face three teams out of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, who will contest a separate qualification pathway.
This will give European teams the opportunity to face five-time Rugby World Cup winners New Zealand on a more regular basis. England, who lost to the Black Ferns in the 2017, 2010, 2006 and 2002 World Cup finals, will have the chance to become more competitive against their arch-rivals.
How will this benefit women’s rugby fans?
The creation of WXV is brilliant news for fans of women’s rugby. In essence, it means more matches to attend in person or watch on television. World Rugby has confirmed it is working with broadcasters to ensure the new tournament is as visible and accessible as possible.
“What we do know is that there is huge interest and appetite in partnering with the women’s game,” said World Rugby interim chief executive Alan Gilpin.
“We have already got some really advanced discussions with a number of partners about being involved in this tournament going forward. We need to make sure that the maximum number of young girls around the world can watch this tournament.”
Will there be increased investment in women’s rugby?
The creation of WXV is supported by an investment of £6.4 million from World Rugby. This marks a significant increase in funding for women’s rugby at a time when many sports are struggling financially due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Katie Sadleir, World Rugby’s general manager of women’s rugby, said: “We’re investing more money in women’s rugby than we ever have before.”
“It is the area we have not cut and it’s certainly we’ve put a lot of pressure on our unions to not do the same. From a global perspective, there hasn’t been a cent cut in women’s rugby — there’s been a significant increase.”
WXV will be further supported by a dedicated Women in Rugby commercial programme. This will aim to actively further profile, engagement and sustainable growth, driving revenue back into the development of women’s rugby.
“Supercharge” growth of women’s rugby
The overall aim of WXV is to “supercharge” women’s rugby. It is hoped the increase in competitive opportunities and investment will aid the development of the sport worldwide.
Both WXV 2 and WXV 3 will feature teams from Asia, Africa and South America, where 15s rugby is less popular. World Rugby is planning to help countries from such regions develop high-performance programmes to ensure participation in WXV. In turn, this should increase the participation of these countries in the Rugby World Cup, which is expanding from 12 to 16 teams in 2025.
“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,” said World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont.
“At the same time, we are also growing the profile, fanbase and commercial revenue, generating opportunities for women’s rugby through the new Women in Rugby commercial programme.
“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.”