The Rugby World Cup for women, historically known as the Women’s Rugby World Cup, is the premier international competition in rugby union for women. The tournament is organised by the sport’s governing body, World Rugby. The championships have been held every four years since the first, hosted in Wales in 1991.
On 21 August 2019, World Rugby announced that gender designations would be removed from the titles of the men’s and women’s World Cups. Accordingly, all future World Cups for men and women will officially bear the “Rugby World Cup” name. The first tournament to be affected by the new policy will be the next women’s tournament to be held in New Zealand in 2022, which will officially be titled as “Rugby World Cup 2022”.
The first Women’s Rugby World Cup was held in 1991 and won by the United States. The 1991 and 1994 competitions were not officially sanctioned by World Rugby, then known as the International Rugby Football Board, at the time – they later received retrospective endorsement in 2009 when the governing body, which by that time had changed its name to the International Rugby Board, included the 1991 and 1994 champions in its list of previous winners. It was not until the 1998 tournament held in the Netherlands that the tournament received official IRB backing, and the IRB retroactively recognised the preceding tournaments. The most successful team, with five titles, is New Zealand.
World Rugby has launched a new three-tier annual global women’s international 15s competition within a restructuring of the test calendar. Launching in 2023, WXV will revolutionise the women’s international rugby landscape, providing for the first time a meaningful pathway for all unions and a competitive springboard towards an expanded 16-team Rugby World Cup in 2025.
WXV 1 will consist of six teams and be played in a cross-pool format, as a standalone tournament in one location, which will be determined on a year-by-year basis.
Participating teams will include the top three teams from the Women’s Six Nations (Europe) and the top three teams of the cross-regional tournament featuring USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia (Oceania/Rugby Americas North (RAN))
There will be no promotion or relegation in the first cycle of WXV 1.
The WXV 2 competition will consist of six teams, played in a cross-pool format, as a standalone tournament in one location, which will be determined on a year-by-year basis.
Participating teams for 2023 will include two teams from Europe, the fourth-placed team from the cross-regional tournament featuring USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia (Oceania/RAN) alongside one team from Oceania, Asia and Africa
The sixth-placed regional position in the WXV 2 competition at the end of each season will be relegated to WVX 3.
WXV 3 will be hosted in one venue as a round-robin format and will consist of four teams with the winner and rankings determined by a points table. Participating teams will include two teams from Europe, one team from Asia and the winner of a Africa vs South America play-off
The top ranked regional position in the WXV 3 competition will be promoted to the WXV 2 competition at the end of each season.
A play-off between the fourth-ranked team and next best ranked team from the World Rugby Women’s Rankings will determine regional position for the next season.