World Rugby has announced the launch of a new annual three-tier global women's tournament to boost the international landscape of the sport.
WXV as it has been named, is due to have its inaugural opener in 2023 and has been supported by a £6.4 million investment from the global body for its first two years.
The tournament will be played between the September an October international competition window, except during World Cup years and all games will be played within one location, determined on a year-by-year basis.
"This is a landmark moment for the sport," said World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont. "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."
He added: "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."
Entry into the competition will be through regional qualifiers. The top tier, WXV 1, will consist of six teams - the leading three sides from the Six Nations competition and the top three from a qualifier between Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. Initially, there is not set to be relegation from this tier.
WXV 2 will be made up of the next two teams from the Six Nations, the fourth-placed team from the tournament featuring Oceania and North American teams, and another side each from Oceania, Asia and Africa.
WXV 3 will comprise of four teams and include two more from Europe, one from Asia and the winners of an Africa-South America playoff. The top side will be promoted to WXV 2.
Author: Jake Wilkin