The Springbok Women will have an added incentive in their African Cup campaign later this month after World Rugby confirmed on Friday that South Africa will host one of the three exciting new WXV tournaments later this year.
South Africa will play host to the six-team second tier WXV 2 competition in the Western Cape, with matches being played across the weekends of 14, 21 and 28 October. WXV 1 will be hosted in New Zealand, while the host for WXV 3 is set to be named once the participating team picture becomes clearer in order to maximise attendance, reach and impact.
However, to qualify the Springbok Women must win the African Cup tournament in Madagascar towards the end of May – when they face Cameroon (20 May), Kenya (24 May) and the host union (29 May) in Antananarivo. Success for the Springbok Women would guarantee them qualification for WXV 2 and the chance to play in front of local supporters for the first time since hosting Spain in August 2022.
Lynne Cantwell, SA Rugby’s High-Performance Manager for Women’s Rugby, said: “It’s 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’re 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.”
The WXV series is part of World Rugby’s 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.
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 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.
England, France and Wales have booked their place in WXV 1, Scotland have secured a trip to South Africa to appear in WXV 2 and Ireland are confirmed for WXV 3. Italy will now play-off against Spain to determine who will come to South Africa and who will go into WXV 3.
The remaining places will be determined via regional qualifiers in Africa, Asia and Oceania to be played in Madagascar, Kazakhstan and Australia. The third level WXV host will be named once the participating team picture becomes clearer in order to maximise attendance, reach and impact.
World Rugby Chief of Women’s Rugby Sally Horrox said: “WXV is the flagship of the competitions pillar of our accelerating the global growth 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 through our ‘Accelerate’ programme.”
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.
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 each 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, 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.