TORONTO — Canada's women will have chance to play the world's top teams annually as part of a new 16-team competition announced Tuesday by World Rugby.
The competition, called WXV, is set to begin in 2023 and will consist of three tiers. It will be staged from September to October each year, except in Rugby World Cup years.
Qualifying for the WXV will take place every year before June.
The Canadian women, currently ranked third in the world, will take part in a new annual competition also featuring the fifth-ranked Americans and No. 2 New Zealand and No. 5 Australia from Oceania.
The top three teams from North America and Oceania will then join the top three from the Six Nations competition in Europe in the top tier, dubbed WXV1, of the new tournament
They will play in a stand-alone tournament in one location that will be determined on a year-by-year basis.
Canada coach Sandro Fiorino called it "exciting times for the women's game."
The format will offer the Canadians a structured match calendar that will build toward the World Cup, held every four years. For Fiorino, it will also given his players a platform to showcase their talents to overseas clubs.
The second tier will consist of the two next best teams in the Six Nations, the fourth-place finisher in the Oceania-Americas competition, and one team from Oceania, Asia and Africa.
In the third tier, there will be two teams from Europe, one from Asia, and the winner of an Africa versus South America playoff.
Fiorino expects the new competition to start after the next Women's World Cup, which has been pushed back from 2021 to 2022 due to the global pandemic.
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said the establishment of a global women’s calendar was a “landmark moment for the sport.”
“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,” Beaumont said.
World Rugby said it is investing 6.4 million pounds (C$11.1 million) in the first two years of the competition.
“For the first time ever, women’s high-performance programs will, in essence, be able to plan from Rugby World Cup to Rugby World Cup with certainty as a result of the new unified global international 15s calendar,” World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte said in a statement.
With files from The Associated Press