World Rugby has today issued its latest release on the new WXV tournament, which confirms some subtle changes from previous
There have been a number of subtle changes made to the format of WXV since it was first announced in March 2021.
WXV3 was quickly expanded from the initial four to six teams, matching the number of teams in the other two divisions, and last November it was confirmed that the competition would form part of the qualification process for the 2025 World Cup.
The latest announcement includes two additional changes.
First, it confirms what many have known (but had not been officially announced). The European Champions (ie. Spain) will now playoff against the fifth team in the Six Nations for a place in WXV2 – previously they were placed directly in WXV3.
Second, the idea of a playoff between the winners of WXV3 and the bottom team in WXV2 has now been dropped. Instead there will be automatic promotion and relegation – the region represented by the bottom team in WXV2 will lose a place to the region represented by the top team in WXV3.
This makes a lot of sense, as an actual playoff would almost inevitably involve teams that would not be directly affected by the outcome.
For example, if Ireland won WXV3 this year and had then won the playoff, all this would have done would have been to win a place for Europe in WXV2. If Ireland finished sixth in next year’s Six Nations they would still have found themselves in WXV3.
This potential nonsense is now removed, along with the cost and administrative challenge of arranging an inter-regional playoff.
However, the playoff between the bottom team in WXV3 and the highest ranked team not in the competition (at present probably be the Netherlands) remains.
Overall, this all seems to favour Europe. Whoever ends up in WXV3, the winner will almost inevitably be one of the two European teams. As the bottom team in WXV2 is unlikely to be European, Europe looks likely to gain a place there. And the same applies with WXV3 – the challenging team is often most likely to be European, the challenged team most likely not.
How WXV works: A reminder
Each tier will consist of six teams and be played in a cross-pool format. Each team will play three matches.
Participating teams will be the top three teams from the Six Nations 2023 and the top three teams from the Pacific Fours 2023.
Participating teams for 2023 will be two teams from Europe, the fourth-placed team from the Pacific Four Series, alongside the winners of the regional championships in Africa, Asia and Oceania.
The European teams will be the fourth-placed side in the Six Nations 2023 and the winner of a play-off between the fifth-placed team and Spain, the Rugby Europe Women’s Championship 2023 winners.
The region represented by the team that finishes bottom of WXV 2 at the end of each tournament, will be relegated to WXV 3 for the following year.
Participating teams for 2023 will be two teams from Europe and one each from Africa, Asia, Oceania and South America.
Europe’s representatives will be the loser of the play-off (as above) and the bottom-placed team in the Six Nations.
They will be joined by the runners-up in the regional championship in Africa, Asia and Oceania with the final place going to the winner of a play-off between Colombia and Brazil who will represent South America.
The regional position of the WXV 3 winner will be promoted to WXV 2 for the following year. The team finishing bottom of WXV 3 will play-off against the next-best ranked side, according to the World Rugby Women’s Rankings as they stand following the final match of WXV that year.
At present there is no place in the structure for the winners of the revived RAN Championship, but this will be kept under review.