WORLD RUGBY – Italy’s 23-0 victory against Spain in Piacenza seven days ago means the last piece of the inaugural WXV puzzle has fallen into place. [Lead photo: Chris Tanouye – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images]
Prior to kick-off at Stadio Walter Beltrametti, we knew the identity of the 18 teams who will compete in the first edition of World Rugby’s new annual global women’s 15s competition this October and November.
And following the Azzurre’s four-try win the line-ups for all three levels were confirmed, with Italy taking their place in WXV 2 and Spain heading into WXV 3.
The second and third levels will get underway in Cape Town and Dubai on the weekend of 14 October, with WXV 1 kicking off a week later.
All three tournaments will be played in a cross-pool format across three consecutive weekends. This is the story of how the line-ups for each of the three levels were finalised.
The top three finishers in both the Women’s Six Nations 2023 and World Rugby Pacific Four Series 2023 were guaranteed their places in the top level.
That fact added an extra hint of spice to local rivalries when this year’s Women’s Six Nations got underway at the end of March.
England and France became the first teams to qualify for WXV 1 on the penultimate weekend of April, when they each won their fourth successive match of the Championship.
The Red Roses ran in eight tries to beat Ireland 48-0 in Cork before Les Bleues survived a brief Welsh comeback to win 39-14 in front of 18,604 fans in Grenoble, Melissande Llorens scoring two of her side’s six tries.
It meant neither team could be caught by fourth-placed Scotland and England celebrated their achievement by edging a see-saw Grand Slam decider against France the following weekend, winning 38-33 with a world-record 58,498 people inside Twickenham.
Later on the final day, Wales – who had opened the Championship with back-to-back victories against Ireland and Scotland, before losing to England in front of a Welsh record 8,862 in Cardiff – beat Italy 36-10 at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi to secure the third spot in the top level.
Focus then turned to the Pacific Four Series, and Rugby World Cup 2021 winners New Zealand secured their place in WXV 1 with 52-21 win against Canada at TD Place Stadium on 8 July.
Mererangi Paul and Amy du Plessis each scored two of the Black Ferns’ eight tries, in front of a Canadian record crowd for a women’s test event of 10,092.
Coming on the back of an opening defeat of Australia in Brisbane – watched by another national record crowd – the result ensured the Black Ferns could not be caught by the USA.
Canada, hosts of the final two rounds of the tournament, secured their own place in the top level six days later when a Tyson Beukeboom hat-trick inspired them to a 45-7 victory against the Wallaroos.
Despite their defeat on the final day, Australia’s earlier 58-17 victory against the USA, in which Maya Stewart scored three of the Wallaroos’ nine tries, ensured they finished third in the standings and took their place in WXV 1.
England, France, Wales, Canada and Australia can all now look forward to joining hosts New Zealand when WXV kicks off on the weekend of 21 October.
The tournament will be held across three venues – Forsyth Barr Stadium, Go Media Stadium Mt Smart and Sky Stadium – as the action takes place in both the North and South Islands.
Italy’s defeat to Wales on the final day of the 2023 Women’s Six Nations on 29 April meant Scotland were assured of their place in WXV 2 before taking to the pitch against Ireland.
But they celebrated becoming the first team to qualify for the second level by running in six tries to beat Ireland 36-10 at DAM Health Stadium in Edinburgh.
At the end of May, the next two qualifiers for WXV 2, from Asia and Africa, were confirmed, on the same day.
First, on 28 May, Japan ran in 11 tries to beat Kazakhstan in the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship 2023 final in Almaty, equalling their hosts’ record of five title wins.
Then, in front of a crowd of 18,000 at Stade Makis in Antananarivo, South Africa secured the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup 2023 title and their place in WXV 2 with a 79-8 defeat of Madagascar.
Seven days later, there was drama on Australia’s Gold Coast as Samoa edged Fiji to the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship 2023 title, and a place in the second level, by a single point.
Both teams had won their opening matches against Papua New Guinea and Tonga at Bond University to set up a winner-takes-all final round clash on 4 June.
Fiji outscored Samoa three tries to one in the decisive match but the trusty boot of Cassie Siataga, who kicked 14 points including an 80th-minute penalty, gave the Manusina a 19-18 win.
The USA became the fifth team to guarantee their place in WXV 2 following the conclusion of the Pacific Four Series.
And they will be joined in the inaugural edition of the tournament by Italy, following their WXV play-off win against Spain on Saturday.
South Africa will welcome Italy, the USA, Scotland, Japan and Samoa to Cape Town for three rounds, beginning on the weekend of 14 October. A host venue and ticketing information is scheduled to be announced in due course. [Editor’s note: The WPL national championship is Oct. 14, and semifinals are Oct. 7.]
Ireland were the first team to be confirmed in WXV 3 as a result of their disappointing 2023 Women’s Six Nations campaign.
The Irish finished bottom of the Championship standings, defeat to Scotland on the final day being their fifth in five matches.
They were joined in the third level by two teams on 28 May. Kazakhstan, who had earned their place in the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship 2023 final with a win against Hong Kong China, were beaten by Japan in Almaty.
Hours later, Kenya became the third team to confirm their entry to WXV 3 following a 52-3 victory against Cameroon in the penultimate match of the 2023 Rugby Africa Women’s Cup.
The Lionesses started the day knowing that victory would likely secure their place in the third level, and they ran in eight tries to book their ticket to the tournament in style.
Fiji became the fourth team confirmed for WXV 3 this October following their narrow defeat to Samoa in the 2023 Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship final.
And Colombia joined them on 9 July, when they wrapped up a 54-42 aggregate win against Brazil in Medellin.
Las Tucanes edged the first leg 24-23 on 5 July but they put in a more dominant display four days later as Leidy Soto ran in a hat-trick of tries to help secure a commanding 30-19 victory at Estadio Cincuentenario.
That left one place up for grabs and it will be filled by Spain, after the Rugby Europe Women’s Championship 2023 winners were beaten by Italy in Piacenza.
Dubai’s The Sevens Stadium will host Ireland, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Fiji, Colombia and Spain when WXV 3 kicks off on the weekend of 14 October.