A new rugby competition between tier one nations from the northern and southern hemisphere will be played every alternate year from 2026 to add a competitive edge to the July and November international windows, officials confirmed on Saturday.
A ‘World League’ has been mooted for some time to try and extract more revenue from the international windows and bring “context” to what have been friendly fixtures played traditionally in the southern hemisphere in July and in the north in November.
Although no format has been confirmed by organisers for the new competition, reports suggest Six Nations sides England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales will be in one pool, and teams that make up the Rugby Championship — Australia, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa — will be in the other along with two invited guests, one of which is likely to be Japan.
Teams from the north would travel south for three tests in July and then host three more games in November.
The Six Nations will remain in its current February-March position on the calendar and the Rugby Championship will still be played in August-September.
“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,” Six Nations Rugby said in a statement on Saturday.
“Owned and operated by Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR, the elite competition will take place in alternating years, outside of the British & Irish Lions Tours and Rugby World Cup.”
World Rugby will also create a second-tier competition “to strengthen the development pathway for emerging nations”, with promotion and relegation between the two divisions.
“The introduction of the new elite international competition is 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 statement continued.
“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 help deliver.”