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Rugby Union: Plans unveiled for new global tournament

Organisers have announced a new biennial competition featuring all 10 teams from the Six Nations and Rugby Championship is set to start in 2026.

Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR have come together to form a new partnership to boost the sport of rugby union, with plans for a new tournament to start in the existing July and November Test windows.

The event will be played outside of British and Irish Lions tours and the World Cup, and organisers say the move will "drive growth and long-term sustainability".

Two more unions will then be invited to join, with organisers hoping to introduce promotion and relegation from 2030 via a second-tier competition run by World Rugby.

Who will feature in the new competition?

There is already a feast of international action for supporters worldwide, but rugby union fans will no doubt welcome the new tournament.

Teams from the Six Nations - England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France and Italy - will compete against teams from the Rugby Championship.

That means Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa are going to test their mettle against Europe's best, while they will still compete in the Rugby Championship.

This year's Rugby Championship will take place in July, with New Zealand 8/11 favourites to retain their crown. 

South Africa only lost the 2022 Rugby Championship by one point, and they are priced at 15/8 to win the event.

Organisers hoping to change international landscape

Both Six Nations and Sanzaar chiefs have announced there will be a "transparent selection process" to ensure two more teams are selected from the southern hemisphere to ensure there are six from each organisation.

No format has been officially announced for the event or a name, but reports have claimed that teams from the north would travel south for three Tests in July and then host three games in November.

The Six Nations Championship is not set to move from its February-March slot, and in a joint statement, the Six Nations and Sanzaar chiefs believe the new tournament will have a huge impact on the game.

"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 (IRP)," said the Six Nations and Sanzaar.

"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 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."

Six Nations teams will hope to benefit from playing in the competition, but it will not affect the upcoming Championship in 2024. 

France are 6/5 to win the event and retain their crown, but Ireland are hot on their heels at 11/8.

England, under the stewardship of Steve Borthwick, can be backed at 6/1, while Scotland are 16/1 to win the tournament for the first time.

Players consulted ahead of announcement

The announcement of a new tournament will no doubt worry some as officials are looking to improve player welfare across the world.

The new tournament will have no impact on club rugby, which would have been an initial fear, and players have also been heavily consulted in the build-up to the announcement.

There have been recent concerns about burnout and increased recovery periods, but with over two years to plan for the first fixture, organisers will hope they can get the balance right and grow the game.

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