World Rugby considering Rugby Championship-style women's competition

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

World Rugby is hoping to build a Rugby Championship-style competition for women sooner rather than later, according to women’s rugby boss Katie Sadleir.

Northern Hemisphere nations play a women’s Six Nations tournament annually but Southern Hemisphere teams have lacked regular Tests in the past, with Australia and New Zealand the only regular XVs programs down under.

The biggest difficulty for Australia and New Zealand is their distance from the Six Nations countries, often making the cost of travelling north for matches outside of World Cups prohibitive.

It would be unlikely for the Southern Hemisphere to exactly replicate its Rugby Championship for women, with South Africa and Argentina having little presence when it comes to Women’s XVs, but World Rugby is looking at options to introduce a regular competition similar to the Six Nations.

The notion of an annual competition in the Oceania region is something World Rugby is looking at seriously, especially with New Zealand and Australia bidding for the next Women’s Rugby World Cup.

World Rugby officials are in Sydney this week for its quarterly meetings and officials had a women’s rugby workshop to kick off the week.

Katie Sadleir is the head of women's rugby at World Rugby. Photo: Getty ImagesSadleir said an expanded international program, and extra funding help from World Rugby, was a key priority in those talks.

“We had a whole day's workshop looking at the international competition calendar,’ she said.

“We're talking about boosting what actually happens at a regional level.

“We've got six regions but we’re also looking at the potential for cross-regional competitions and I know that New Zealand has been having conversations with Australia.

“They've been having conversations with other teams in the Northern Hemisphere to see what is possible and World rugby is keen to support those initiatives.”

Australia has been vocal about its need for more Tests with Wallaroos coach Dwayne Nestor hoping for a five-Test schedule in 2019.

World Rugby has delved into some reserve funding as it looks to help the women’s game grow across the globe.

“There has been no competition (in the Southern Hemisphere) so we’re picking up the international competition calendar and sitting down with the top unions and saying, ‘What makes sense here?’

“It's really hard when you're in the other side of the big Six Nations up there to get those opportunities so we are really seriously looking at what is possible.

“World Rugby has released money from its reserves to look at putting in place new competitions and we are certainly working with unions around the world to make sure that happens."

The Southern Hemisphere is set to host its first Women's Rugby World Cup in 2021 with Australia and New Zealand both bidding for the tournament.

The Black Ferns are the reigning World Cup champions. Photo: Getty ImagesWorld Rugby officials have visited Australia's proposed sites as part of their visit, something that could prove critical in the countdown to their November 14 vote.

While it is the Rugby World Cup council that makes the final call, World Rugby's executive puts together much of the key information when it comes to reviewing the bid.

Sadleir said one of the key considerations would be the legacy the tournament would create in the host country.

"We've had a group down here that's been looking at those sites," she said.

"I've had a look at both bids. There's a New Zealand and Australia bid -they're both very impressive.

"I'm particularly interested in the impact beyond and I think the things that both of the bids are trying to do are really good in terms of developing rugby within the union but also looking at the wider Asia-Pacific region, so fantastic.

"The decision's made by Council. Our role is just to evaluate information and make sure they've got the information presented to them in an objective way."

The World Rugby Council will announce the 2021 Women's Rugby World Cup host on November 14 after its final meetings of the year in Dublin.