Global rugby tournament plan unveiled

SANZAAR and the Six Nations announced plans for a joint tournament with southern and northern hemisphere teams from 2026 in a bid to “bring new life” to international rugby.

The competition will be played in the existing July and November Test windows in alternate years, outside of British & Irish Lions tours and the World Cup, the two organisations said in a statement on Saturday.

It will feature the four Rugby Championship teams — Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa — and the Six Nations sides of England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales.

Two spaces have also been reserved for invited unions to join the SANZAAR teams, potentially Japan.

A second-tier competition will be also established by governing body World Rugby featuring sides from Europe and the rest of the world, paving the way for promotion and relegation.

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“Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR are working in partnership, alongside global rugby stakeholders, to bring to life a new international rugby competition that will be played in the existing July and November Test windows,” the statement read.

“The creation of the new competition has been a collective process from the sport, including World Rugby, unions, key leagues, competitions, and crucially, the International Rugby Players.

“Set to begin in 2026, the new elite competition will feature all the Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR teams, with two spaces reserved for invitational unions to join the southern hemisphere group. A transparent selection process will be managed by SANZAAR, supported by World Rugby and the International Rugby Players, to determine these two invitational unions.

“Owned and operated by Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR, the elite competition will take place in alternating years, outside of the British and Irish Lions Tours and Rugby World Cup.

“Involved at every stage of developing the new competition, has been the International Rugby Players. This connection has been key in supporting the wider conversations around the club and international calendar taking place in parallel, and ensuring player welfare has remained a fundamental priority in all decision-making.

“To strengthen the development pathway for emerging nations, World Rugby will create a second-tier competition that will feature teams from Europe and the rest of the world, with Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR actively involved in cementing the link between the two divisions.

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“Establishing the two competitions will pave the way for promotion and relegation matches, contributing towards a valuable pathway for teams, and will support ambitions to sustain and grow the global game.

“The introduction of the new elite international competition is a testament to the strong ambition from all parties, motivated by delivering context and a stronger narrative around the July and November windows, that can genuinely excite players and bring new fans to the game.

“The impact this will have on the game will be to drive its growth and long-term sustainability. This runs alongside the work being done to add greater clarity and balance to the club and international calendar; a process Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR remain committed to helping deliver.”

© Agence France-Presse

Photo: @Springboks/Twitter

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