After years of devotion to projecting the women’s game as being an area of growth, World Rugby has bravely chosen to announce the new WXV global strategy that will begin in 2023.
In the unease of choosing to formally postpone the 2021 Rugby World Cup tournament until 2022, a fresh World Rugby women’s rugby fund has been endorsed to develop and fund a high-performance preparation and competition program for three Tiers of the women’s game.
On Tuesday, March 16, details of a new annual global women’s XVs competition model; the WXV and (to be introduced) international playing windows, were released to stakeholders. Publicized widely and discussed in further detail during an online World Rugby Women’s Rugby media conference attended by Last Word on Rugby.
WXV likely to supercharge the women’s game
Attended by Alan Gilpin; Interim Chief Executive World Rugby, Alison Hughes; World Rugby Competitions Operations Manager, and Katie Sadleir, the General Manager of Women’s rugby. Describing and explaining the full collaborative approach to WXV, Alison Hughes has been a key proponent of the effort by leading nations across three tiers of the global game.
- Ground-breaking global international 15s calendar set to accelerate the development of the women’s game ahead of expanded RWC 2025
- New calendar reflects World Rugby’s long-term commitment to establishing a highly competitive and global test calendar to elevate standards
- WXV will be supported by a new Women in Rugby commercial program
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.
In order to ‘supercharge’ the sport, in recognizing that globally women’s high-performance programs are currently at ‘differing levels and stages’ World Rugby is committed to working to ensure optimal performance within all three WXV tiers. And even while a level of ‘promotion/relegation’ has not been in-built, the inter-regional competitions in Tier Two and Three will see the next level of sides rewarded in 2023/24.
BREAKING NEWS!@worldrugby have just announced a colossal new competition! Introducing World Rugby WXV.
A global rugby competition highlighting the top teams in the elite of Women’s Rugby.
Due to commence in 2023 we cannot wait to watch this one! pic.twitter.com/2HgLwaeQxN
— Rugbystore 🏉 (@rugby_store) March 16, 2021
To achieve this, Hughes and Alan Gilpin had been working with leading nations to find agreement on principles, such as leading nations agreeing to the timelines of a June window, and the September to November calendar to allow for a co-ordinated global schedule.
Tier One nations committed to adapting towards 2023 Global Calendar
Last Word on Rugby pressed that position further, by asking what understandings World Rugby had that a Tier One nation like New Zealand would change its traditional Farah Palmer Cup calendar of September/October? Alison Hughes answered: “We have been working in collaboration with our member unions, regions, and other key stakeholders over the past two years, developing the unified global international XVs calendar and competition.”
Intimating that New Zealand Rugby has already made the promise to work around the two windows; of June and September-October, Alison answered the LWOR question by stating “We’ve had tremendous buy-in from unions around the world. We’ve had great consultation with domestic leagues about finding the right window for the 7 weeks of this competition. There will be a slight adjustment made.”
In the World Rugby media statement, Hughes continued; “To grow the game at elite level we need to ensure our member unions have quality, competitive and consistent playing opportunities so they can continue to develop and invest in their women’s high-performance programs.
“As part of the international XVs calendar development, we have focused on strengthening existing regional competitions and also established an exciting new cross-regional competition to increase annual playing opportunities for some of the top teams in the world where it simply did not exist before.”
Underlining its commitment to delivering a spectacular Rugby World Cup tournament in New Zealand in 2022, the funding will be a great help to some although, many of those are well able to assist themselves.
In line with the goals outlined, at ground level, the ‘haves’ can do a lot more than the ‘have nots’. That does not mean sacrificing revenue share yet, for example, New Zealand has the means to operate more easily, than say Canada. Both sides are in the Oceania/Rugby Americas North group. And for the Canadian players to prepare, a higher percentage of the budget must be provided for that nation.
— Neil Davidson (@NeilMDavidson) March 16, 2021
Equity might still need to be on a balanced approach if Tier One sides are to compete fairly. And the same can be said of Tier Two and Three.
New program/competition; How it will work?
The decision to postpone this year’s tournament was taken following extensive discussions with New Zealand Rugby and participating unions as a result of the continued impact and insurmountable uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic. That puts pressure on sides who have already qualified, and those who must still go through the process to do so. Knowing that World Rugby has rightly looked to assist those stakeholders with a $6.4 million fund.
This will aid the development of the format and bankroll matches across the three groups in 2023. That includes:
This 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.
Note: 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.
This group’s contest will be hosted in one venue as a round-robin format and will consist of four teams, with the winner and rankings determined by a points table. Participating teams will include two teams from Europe, one team from Asia and the winner of an Africa v South America play-off.
The top-ranked regional position in the WXV 3 competition will be promoted to the WXV 2 competition at the end of each season.
A play-off between the fourth-ranked team and the next best-ranked team from the World Rugby Women’s rankings will determine a regional position for the next year.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “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.
“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. 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 program.
“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.”
Women’s Advisory Committee Chairman, Serge Simon added: “This is momentous for the women’s 15s game. As part of the women’s strategic plan, we are committed to delivering world-class high-performance programs that will produce inspirational results for the women’s game. The new global XVs calendar will enable unions to plan long-term while also increasing quality competition opportunities.”
And in the end, over the long term, the main benefactor is not only the sport but future players, coaches, and fans as a whole.
“Main photo credit”
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