In an official release, Six Nations outline plans for 2026 tournament

Following the World Rugby-hosted summit on the global calendar, Six Nations and SANZAAR have now released details on their planned joint tournament from 2026.

According to a release from Six Nations, the new competition will take place in existing July and November Test windows with all of the Six Nations and SANZAAR sides competing – plus two invitational unions. They also say that World Rugby will create a new second-tier competition, to “facilitate promotion and relegation matches”.

These meetings in London were attended by representatives from World Rugby, the British & Irish Lions, Six Nations and SANZAAR, plus International Rugby Players (IRP) reps and other unions, as well as figures from the top professional leagues.

Also mooted at this meet, according to reports, is the shortening of the Six Nations by a week.

However, any decisions made at the summit must be ratified by the World Rugby’s council when they convene in October.

Six Nations and SANZAAR

Argentina and New Zealand from the Rugby Championship (Getty Images)

Six Nations statement on new tournament

“Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR are working in partnership, alongside global rugby stakeholders, to bring to life a new international rugby competition 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 all the Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR teams, with two spaces reserved for invitational unions to join the Southern Hemisphere group. 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 Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR, 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 Six Nations and SANZAAR 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 from all parties, motivated by delivering context and a stronger narrative around the July and November windows, that can genuinely 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 Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR remain committed to help deliver.”

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