Six Nations and SANZAAR set to launch new tournament

The 12-team competition is due to get under way in 2026 and will be held every two years, avoiding Rugby World Cups and Lions tours

Finn Russell was at his mercurial best for Scotland versus Argentina. Image: © Craig Watson -
Finn Russell in action for Scotland against Argentina in 2022. Image: © Craig Watson -

THE Six Nations and SANZAAR – the body comprising South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina – have announced they are working together to set up a new global international tournament, due to begin in 2026.

Presuming a final agreement is reached, the new competition will include two invited teams in addition to the six from Europe and the four Rugby Championship sides. It will be held in the existing July and November Test windows, and take place every second year, avoiding those years in which the Rugby World Cup or British & Irish Lions tours are held.

World Rugby will establish a new second-tier competition, and it is intended that there will be promotion and relegation between the two tournaments.

Announcing the plans this morning (Saturday), a press release from Six Nations said:

“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 Rugby 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.”


About Stuart Bathgate 1412 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.


  1. More burn out of top players; the likes of Scotland, Italy, Argentina and other non-seriously top tier countries will be unable to compete year long with the likes of NZ, France, SA, possibly Oz. Rwc will be devalued and possibly likewise the 6N. Too much rugby leads to apathy, killing the golden goose etc. Just when Scottish club fixtures have been reduced in number and players will drift away. In all honesty I’m a long serving player now retired, rugby is my hobby life, but you know what? I’m tiring of it above club level now. Bring back the season of September to end March, 7s in April, May and real R&R for EVERYONE most of the summer. How we can expect our budding stars to go from Premiership to Professional Club then National duty in what will be a shorter time now, I have no idea snd slightly despair over their long term wellbeing. The goose farmers just want more eggs unfortunately

    • Well said Mike. I suspect many people involved in club game share your sentiments.

  2. So another World Cup in all but name! Kind of devalues the World Cup and puts player welfare at risk. It is possible to have too much of a good thing

  3. If this two-tier world tournament features promotion and relegation, then we had best watch out if our under 20s are anything to go by. Personally I think it is a bad thing all round – totally stiffs the second tier nations, despite ludicrous claims that it will somehow develop their game. These nations love to have a crack at the big guns on their autumn tours and depend upon them financially. I’m assuming it will require a three-year cycle for them to get just one shot at promotion. It also cheapens the ‘specialness’ of the Six Nations, for which autumn internationals are key to preparation. Why play the other teams in it twice a year? Once again the SANZAR tail wags the European dog.

  4. All very sad . Unfortunately the way of professional sport, just look at golf, football, corrupt to the core at the top level . Rugby going the same way ,has huge welfare issues regards player safety ,but even that doesn’t seem to affect decisions.

    • Rugby has been corrupt in the English Premiership for very many years with a governing body turning a blind eye and letting those that organised the corruption remain in place.

  5. this a madness.
    It undermines the RWC by having a different World Championship every other year as well.
    It freezes out tier 2 unions – when exactly do they get to play tier 1 outside the RWC proper?
    It hammers player welfare. It means at least an extra test match or 2, and although the details announced are remarkable for their lack of detail, been widely trailed that the 6N would lose one of its fallow weekends (which also favours unions with bigger player pools).
    Extra tests means more tickets to be paid for – or maybe they won’t sell – the pool of fans is finite I’m afraid.
    There will no doubt be play offs. Where? Is RWC trying to outdo URC by leaving any fan wanting their to see their team in a final having to book last minute to the other side of the world? Or do they just not give a damn (I think I know which)

  6. We need the cash to buy more Australians and South Africans. That’s the way we’re going win. Not by having multiple academies producing talented Scots boys for gods sake that would be a ludicrous idea. Or would it…

    • If the Irish can produce talented local lads why can’t we with a bit of cash to help the clubs and Pro teams do it ?

    • this is completely driven by Australia and NZ. Unable to fund themselves in ne case and a cash grab refusal to play Tier 2 unions outside the RWC.
      Sod all to do with academies anywhere

      • You mean like the last AB international – against Japan in Tokyo? Didn’t realise that was in the RWC.

        And of course the home nations are doing so well funding the game over here aren’t they?

  7. “Promotion and relegation between the 2 tournaments.” That’s good as long as any team can get relegated, and it’s not just a way of shuffling the invitational sides.

  8. The cash generated from this expansion of the international game MUST go back into the community game to expand the sport and provide new players for the international game

  9. So summer tours are a thing of the past now? Where will fringe players get a chance to develop within a international structure?
    Just unnecessary….

  10. I can see the logic if it’s just to generate cash but saying that the first consideration is player welfare does not ring true to me.
    Am I just being reactionary?


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