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World Rugby confirms landmark plans for international calendar

As the dust starts to settle on a thrilling 2023 World Cup on French soil, World Rugby have already announced their plans for a new competition starting in 2026.

Yet to be given an official name, this new tournament will be made up of 24 teams that will be split up into two divisions.

The top division will include the 10 sides that make up up both the Six Nations and Rugby Championship, plus two unnamed others, with Fiji and Japan expected to be announced.

Promotion and relegation between the two divisions will come into effect from 2030.

After the World Cup showcased some of the best the top-tier and emerging nations have to offer, there seems to be excitement about this new competition.

So what else do we know?

Dates

World Rugby has revealed the new tournament will be played in July and November and will replace the current internationals we have become accustomed to in those months over the years.

Starting in 2026, the competition will take place in alternate years, excluding those which include the World Cup and British and Irish Lions tours of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. 

Teams

When it comes to the teams, the Rugby Championship sides of Australia, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa will form part of the top division.

They will be joined by England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France and Italy from the Six Nations, while Fiji and Japan are expected to be handed the final two spots in the 12-team division.

The second division will be made up of tier two nations, looking to prove themselves and push for promotion from 2030.

Verdict

Talk of a shake-up to the international calendar has been spoken about for many years, in a bid to bring more value to the Test matches in July and November.

World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin believes a solution has now been found, meaning games going forward will always have some meaning in the wider international calendar.

Gilpin told BBC Sport: "I think it's really significant.

"We've had many years of trying to get to a position where we've created guaranteed pathways for all nations in men's and women's rugby, from wherever they are in regional competitions to global pinnacle events.

"This provides those opportunities, so it's a really historic day."

For those who have a conservative approach to the Rugby Championship and Six Nations, they will be happy these tournaments will remain untouched in their current format for the foreseeable future.

Those ambitious to radically expand the game will be disappointed the likes of Georgia won’t be involved in the Six Nations, or Japan and Fiji in the Rugby Championship anytime soon.

There are still more details to be revealed on this new competition but it seems to be generally welcomed to bring competitiveness to every international game on the calendar.

Rugby knows it has to change and adapt to develop the game and this certainly looks like a big step forward, that will hopefully see more tier-two sides get a chance to improve themselves against the very best.

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