World Rugby announces 'historic' new competition from 2026

The new competition will be played in July and November
The new competition will be played in July and November
©Steve Haag

World Rugby has unveiled a fresh competition set to commence in 2026, marking a pivotal transformation of the men's international calendar.

The tournament will see 24 teams divided into two divisions of 12 teams apiece and will be played in July and November in the place of summer and autumn series. This competition is scheduled to occur every other year, with exceptions made for years that feature the World Cup and British and Irish Lions tours.

The top division will comprise of 10 teams from Six Nations and the Rugby Championship along with two more sides with promotion and relegation to come into effect from 2030.

The governing body also revealed for the first time in women's rugby, there will be clearly defined global and regional release periods, ensuring there is no overlap between international and club fixtures.

"Agreement on the men's and women's global calendars and their content is the most significant development in the sport since the game went professional," said World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont.

"[It is] a historic moment for our sport that sets us up collectively for success.

"We now look forward to an exciting new era commencing in 2026. An era that will bring certainty and opportunity for all.

"An era that will support the many, not the few, and an era that will supercharge the development of the sport beyond its traditional and often self-imposed boundaries.

"I would like to thank all my colleagues for their spirit of collaboration. We have achieved something special."

A second division competition will also comprise of 12 teams to be decided by World Rugby.

“Played in the July and November international release windows, it will provide crucial opportunities (and certainty of fixtures) for unions currently outside of the existing annual competitions, and in turn provide opportunities for unions and regional associations through to the second division,” World Rugby’s statement continued.

Meanwhile, World Rugby said they are planning for an expansion from 20 teams to 24 for the 2027 Rugby World Cup to allow more teams to qualify for the mega event and more gaps between the fixtures.


2019 Rugby World Cup Points Table