It was short and straight to the point but a simple “wow” from Wales fly-half Elinor Snowsill summed up the universal feeling of positivity towards WXV when the new global competition was unveiled on Tuesday.
WXV involves the top 16 nations in women’s rugby, split into three divisions, and is due to begin in 2023.
World Rugby is investing £6.4 million in the tournament which will represent a truly global mix of countries. It will be played in an international window from September to October, except in Rugby World Cup years.
Snowsill was not alone in lauding Katie Sadleir, General Manager of Women’s Rugby and Alison Hughes, Competition Operations Manager, along with the rest of the World Rugby team for coming up with an innovative solution that it is hoped will not only drive up playing standards but also help the women’s game commercially.
“Well, this just got a little bit exciting. Great for the game to move on. Top work Katie Sadleir,” England legend Rocky Clark tweeted.
“This is a significant and important step in the continuation of developing women’s rugby both globally and nationally."— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) March 16, 2021
🗣 Scottish Rugby’s Head of Girls’ & Women’s Performance Rugby, Gemma Fay on the launch of @WorldRugby WXV competition.
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The top three teams for the Women's Six Nations, plus three of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, who will compete in a new qualification tournament, will contest WXV1.
In the States, the news went down a storm with Women’s Eagles head coach, Rob Cain. “A landmark day for global women’s XVs game and the USA Women’s Eagles with this news,” he wrote. “Giving every high school collegiate and club player more opportunities to realise their dream on the international stage.”
Ireland international Jenny Murphy recognised the impact WXV will have on the Six Nations, as it will only increase the competitiveness of the competition as teams strive to be in the top three positions. “The is massive for the game,” she tweeted. “Serious work has gone into making this a reality. That third spot in the Six Nations is now hugely important.”
Former Ireland captain turned leading referee, Joy Neville, was not far behind her in excitedly tweeting, “This is Epic!!!”
Australia only played four tests in 2019, the last full season of international rugby, but are guaranteed at least six tests per year under the new structure, whatever division they end up in.
Understandably, Wallaroos captain Grace Hamilton was delighted by the plans to expand the women’s game.
“I think it’s a great step to support the women’s XVs format on the world stage,” she said.
“The more rugby women get to play the better it will be, and the more exposure it gets, it goes hand-in-hand with support around the game.
“It’s exciting for every woman involved and all the women who have paved the way for women’s rugby today.”
Japan’s Ayaka Suzuki drew comparisons between WXV and the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, which has helped to revolutionise women’s sevens.
“As with the Sevens World Series, where each national team gains international experiences, we'll have a new calendar for 15s outside the Six Nations!” the Sakura 15s centre tweeted. “It will inspire and promote domestic league competitions! World Rugby, it’s great!"
WXV2 will be played in the same format and will involve two teams from Europe, one of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States and one other team from Oceania, as well as one each from Asia and Africa.
While there is no relegation from WXV1 in the first year, there will be movement between WXV2 and WXV3 once the inaugural season is over.
South Africa could be in line to qualify for WXV2 as one of the top teams from Africa. Due to the unfortunate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Springbok Women have not played a test since October 2019. But lengthy gaps between fixtures should be a thing of the past once WXV gets up and running.
“It is one thing training and another thing playing, and obviously the more matches one plays the better you can become at your craft,” said Springbok Women head coach Stanley Raubenheimer.
“We’ve seen with our other national women’s teams such as the Proteas cricket and netball sides, as well as Banyana Banyana (SA women’s soccer team) that the more they play the more they improve.”