World Rugby has announced the first locations, dates and a vibrant brand for WXV, the new international competition aimed at increasing the competitiveness, reach and impact of elite women’s rugby.
Starting in October 2023, WXV has a clear 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. Importantly, it will double the number of annual international fixtures for most competing teams, combining with World Rugby’s ‘Accelerate’ programme to raise standards at Rugby World Cup 2025 and beyond.
Vibrant brand, vibrant hosts
World Rugby has unveiled a new brandmark that gives the tournament its own fresh, unique visual identity, reflecting the energy, attitude and personality of the women’s game today. The brandmark intentionally gives WXV its own brand platform to connect with women’s rugby fans and new audiences and set the tournament apart from the international federation’s suite of existing competition brands.
Fresh off the back of hosting a record-breaking Rugby World Cup 2021 where the Black Ferns were crowned champions, New Zealand will welcome the world’s top teams in the six-team top level WXV 1 across three match weekends on 21 and 28 October and 4 November.
Cape Town in South Africa will play host to the six-team second level WXV 2 with matches being played across the weekends of 14, 21 and 28 October. Both competitions will be played in a cross-pool format and the match schedule and ticketing information will be announced in due course.
With the qualification process gathering pace, so far England, France and Wales have booked their place in WXV 1. Scotland have secured a place in WXV 2, and Ireland are confirmed for WXV 3. Italy will now 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 the host set to be named once the participating team picture becomes clearer in order to maximise attendance, reach and impact.
WXV is being supported by partners Mastercard, Capgemini and Gallagher, with World Rugby also injecting multi-million-pound investment funding over an initial two-year period in the sprint to an expanded 16-team Rugby World Cup 2025 in England. A full review will be undertaken in 2025 with all participants to ensure that, collectively, WXV continues to support high performance goals as World Rugby looks to define a sustainable global calendar for the international game.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “We made a pledge at a spectacular Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand to accelerate the advancement of the women’s game. Much progress is being made at rapid pace and today we are marking another milestone with confirmation of the dates and venues for the inaugural WXV competition.
“With women and girls leading our strategy to grow the sport on a global basis, this competition will increase the reach and impact of the sport and drive the overall competitiveness of women’s international rugby as we look forward to an expanded 16-team Rugby World Cup 2025 in England and subsequent Rugby World Cups in Australia in 2029 and USA in 2033.”
World Rugby Chief of Women’s Rugby Sally Horrox added: “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 Rugby World Cup in 2033.”
New Zealand Rugby CEO, Mark Robinson said: “Last year’s Rugby World Cup unified and inspired our nation. We witnessed the passion, and the enjoyment Aotearoa has for the women’s game. We are thrilled to now be able to announce we will host the inaugural WXV 1 tournament here in New Zealand. This offers fans another opportunity to witness the best of women’s rugby right on their doorstep.
“We are embarking on a huge year for the Black Ferns who will play seven tests in total and hopefully four of those tests on home soil. It will be a challenging but exciting schedule for the team. We look forward to seeing New Zealanders throw their support behind women’s sport as New Zealand once again becomes the focal point for international women’s rugby.”
South Africa’s Rugby High-Performance Manager for Women’s Rugby, Lynne Cantwell, commented: “It is massive for the women’s game, and we can only commend World Rugby for designing and funding the competition where the top 18 teams in the world will get more competitive games to play, and I have no doubt that it is going to drive the standard of the game.
“We are really happy that we can host this first tournament for teams in WXV 2. Domestically, we would love to market the women’s game as wide as possible and by having it on our doorstep, we can reach out to many potential fans and players by bringing the game to them.
“It will also give our national team at least three more competitive tests every year, and this time around it will provide a good build-up to the 2024 season, which will be the next Rugby World Cup qualification cycle. More games will make us more competitive and hopefully improve our world ranking.”
WXV 1 will consist of six teams and be played in a cross-pool format. Participating teams will include the top three teams from the Women’s Six Nations (Europe) and the top three teams from the World Rugby Pacific Four Series (Rugby Americas North/Oceania). Each team will play three matches. There will be no relegation or promotion for the first two years.
The WXV 2 competition will consist of six teams, playing in a cross-pool format. Participating teams for 2023 will include two teams from Europe, the fourth-placed team from the Pacific Four Series, 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 and one from Asia, Oceania, Africa and South America. The regional position of the winner of WXV 3 will be promoted to WXV 2 and the bottom team will play off against the next best ranked side, according to the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini on the Monday after the final match of WXV that year.