Details of the all-new women’s competition, WXV, announced by World Rugby earlier this year, have now been finalised.
The competition sees the best teams in women’s rugby fighting it out across three tiers, WXV 1, 2, and 3, with the Springbok Women competing in WXV 2. They will be joined by Italy, Japan, Scotland, USA, and Samoa, and South Africa is hosting the WXV 2 games. The WXV 1 tier is being hosted in New Zealand, and is made up of England, Australia, Canada, Wales, France, and New Zealand, while WXV 3 is being contested by Fiji, Colombia, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Spain, and Kenya, with games being played in Dubai.
The Springbok Women will kick off the competition with a game against Scotland on Friday, 13 October, at 16:30 at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch, followed by a clash with Italy on 20 October, at 16:30, at the Athlone Sports Stadium in Cape Town. Their final game is against Samoa on 27 October, at 16:30, also at the Athlone Sports Stadium. The full list of fixtures across all tiers can be found here.
This is a fantastic development for the women’s game, and it is wonderful to see such a comprehensive competition being launched with the intention of growing that game. However, I have concerns around the timing. And I don’t just mean that the host nation of WXV 2 is playing all their games at 16:30 on a Friday, a time when many people will still be at work (unless this is not a factor in Cape Town?), while other games are also being played at 14:00 on a Friday. Looking at all the fixtures across the tiers, there’s one glaring clash that any rugby fan is going to notice straight away, surely. The competition takes place at the same time as the business end of the Rugby World Cup. All three tiers see games being played over the same weekends as the RWC 2023 semis and final, with WXV 2 and 3 also clashing with the quarter finals. In WXV 3, Spain v Kenya is being played at the same time as RWC 2023 QF1, while in the WVX 1 tier, which features the premier women’s teams, England v Australia is being played shortly before RWC 2023 SF 1, New Zealand v France is being played just before the second semi, and France v Australia is just before the final, with New Zealand v Wales being played earlier that day.
Perhaps the thinking is that these games will serve as “curtain raisers”, that people will watch the women’s games before turning over to the World Cup. And I’m sure many will. I also know it’s very difficult to schedule tournaments like this, with so many countries taking part, so I will reiterate that I am very glad it is happening at all. It just seems unfortunate that if part of growing the game includes attracting new viewers, the impact of this inaugural contest will surely be diluted by the fact that most of the rugby world will be focused on the games unfolding in France.
I’m hoping that here in SA, the country will be in the grip of rugby fever, and will support our Springbok Women in full force. They have every chance of emerging victorious from WVX 2, but either way, there are some exciting fixtures lined up, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to see them in action.