New competition signals new era for July and November international rugby windows.
- SANZAAR and Six Nations Rugby are working in partnership to establish a new international rugby competition due to start in 2026
- The new competition will take place in the existing July and November international rugby windows
- Each of the four SANZAAR nations and all of the Six Nations Rugby Unions and Federations will compete in the competition, with two invitational Unions to join the SANZAAR nations
- SANZAAR and Six Nations Rugby will own and operate the elite competition
- World Rugby will create a newly formed second-tier competition, to facilitate promotion and relegation from 2030
SANZAAR and Six Nations Rugby are working in partnership, alongside global rugby stakeholders, to bring to life a new international rugby competition that will that will be played in the existing July and November test windows.
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 each of the four SANZAAR Rugby Championship teams (Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) and the Six Nations Rugby sides (England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales). Two spaces have been reserved for invitational Unions to join the SANZAAR teams. 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 SANZAAR and Six Nations Rugby, the elite competition will take place in alternating years, outside of the British & 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 to ensure 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 SANZAAR and Six Nations Rugby actively involved in cementing the link between the two divisions.
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 testament to the strong ambition across all parties, motivated by delivering context and a stronger narrative around the July and November windows, that can 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 SANZAAR and Six Nations Rugby remain committed to help deliver.