Is the expansion of the World Cup and the development of WXV may be having the same effect growth for test rugby that the Olympics and World Series had for Sevens?
Just over 10 years ago the prospect of winning places at the Olympics and the new World Series encouraged a worldwide growth in sevens, including in many nations away from the traditional “top tier” of rugby nations. The Netherlands – famously – had the first professional sevens squad. Over 150 nations have now played international women’s sevens.
Now WXV and the expansion of the World Cup is having a similar effect on encouraging the expansion of test rugby.
The year after a World Cup is normally quite quiet, but with currently scheduled tests there will have been 99 test matches in 2023 after a record 101 in 2022.
The latest test match announcement today was an example of this. The statement from Brazilian rugby federation’s technical director Josh Reeves made it clear that it was the possibility of a place at the World Cup and in WXV that directly inspirited the ground-breaking two-test series between Brazil and Portugal in Brazil at the end of the month – a series that will mark the first time a team from outside the South America will have played test rugby on the continent.
“We are working very hard with World Rugby to have more games. Portugal showed interest and is a great team that will offer a great challenge. We also have support from Sudamérica Rugby and we are now starting work with an eye on the qualifiers for the 2025 World Cup”, he said.
“Brazil and Portugal are preparing to face the qualifiers for the women's version of the Rugby World Cup next year, which will take place in 2025 in England. In addition to the competition, the WXV will also be played in 2024”, he added.
The announcement highlighted the potential for the games to improve Brazil’s world ranking from its current 49th place, but Reeves also said =that “we are not thinking about results but about the experience of the squad. The new head coach, Emiliano Caffera, will already be working with the team and we will be able to map out all the needs to plan the development of squad. After the two games we will have an excellent vision of where we need to evolve”.
To support these ambitions Reeves also announced that plans for the national competition calendar are being advanced with the “BR XV” - the Brazilian Championship of Regional Teams - including an under 19 competition for the first time.
The two test matches will be at SESI Guarulhos, Sao Paulo on 21st and 25th of this month, kick-off at 3:30 pm local time in both cases.