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WXV, the new global women’s rugby union national teams series put at the cornerstone of the sport’s growth strategy by the World Rugby governing body, will kick off later this year in New Zealand and South Africa.

Announcing details today (May 5), World Rugby revealed the inaugural edition of the 18-team (up from the initially mooted 16), three-tier competition will take place in October and November.

The top tier, WXV 1, will be played across the three match weekends of October 21 and 28, as well as November 4 in New Zealand, which hosted the women’s Rugby World Cup in 2021. England, France, and Wales are already confirmed as three of its six teams, with the 2023 edition of the World Rugby Pacific Four Series to determine the remaining three.

WXV 2 will be played in the South African city of Cape Town, on the weekends of October 14, 21, and 28. Scotland are the only team confirmed for the second tier so far, with another from Europe to be determined by a playoff between Italy and Spain, the fourth-placed team from the Pacific Four Series, and one team each from Oceania, Asia, and Africa to also feature.

The dates and host location for the final tier, WXV 3, have yet to be announced. Ireland are confirmed to compete, with the loser of the Italy vs. Spain playoff to join as the final European participant and one team each from Asia, Oceania, Africa, and South America to be added.

The final slots will be allocated via regional qualifiers beginning this month.

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By GlobalData

World Rugby has said WXV, first unveiled in 2021, will double the number of annual international fixtures for most competing teams. In this way, it will help to achieve the governing body’s aim for the competition of “increasing the competitiveness, reach, and impact of elite women’s rugby.”

The new competition will be the main element of a new pathway from regional events to the Rugby World Cup, with World Rugby putting the women’s game at the center of its strategy to grow rugby union as a whole.

It will support the Accelerate program that World Rugby launched in April to "supercharge the development of women’s rugby on and off the field."

Bill Beaumont, chairman of World Rugby, said: “We made a pledge at a spectacular Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand to accelerate the advancement of the women’s game. Much progress is being made at rapid pace, and, today, we are marking another milestone with confirmation of the dates and venues for the inaugural WXV competition.

“With women and girls leading our strategy to grow the sport on a global basis, this competition will increase the reach and impact of the sport and drive the overall competitiveness of women’s international rugby as we look forward to an expanded 16-team Rugby World Cup 2025 in England and subsequent Rugby World Cups in Australia in 2029 and USA in 2033.”

World Rugby's chief of women’s rugby Sally Horrox added: “WXV is the flagship of the competitions pillar of our Accelerating the Global Development 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’ program 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.”

In addition to dates and locations for the first season, branding for the WXV has been released intended to reflect the women’s game and distinguish the competition as its own platform.

Payments giant Mastercard and IT services firm Capgemini have been revealed as partners for WXV alongside the already-announced insurer Gallagher.