Six Nations Rugby is pleased to welcome a landmark package of player led reform approved by the World Rugby Council.
The news is hugely significant for rugby, signalling a new era in the sport that will deliver a stronger calendar for players and will drive sustained growth of the game by growing its global audience of fans.
Going forward the women’s and men’s rugby calendars will have greater alignment, for the benefit of the international and club game and shaped through close collaboration with representatives from across the whole sport.
As of 2026, the new calendars will mean the global international and club game will complement and interact with each other. Clearly defined player release windows, as well as player load guidelines and guaranteed rest periods, will ensure player welfare remains a priority throughout all stages of the calendar.
Driven by the ambition to deliver the most competitive and compelling proposition for players and fans, the calendar changes will add greater meaning to every fixture, at club and international level. This will drive audience growth on a global scale, and welcome more fans into the sport.
In support of the changes, Six Nations Rugby will adapt both its Championship windows from 2026 onwards. The Women’s Six Nations will start three weeks later than the current calendar, creating an international window for all players across the global game. In addition, the senior Men’s Six Nations will move to five match weekends run over a six-week block, with further rest periods for international players leading out of competitions and throughout the season.
Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR will introduce a new competition in 2026 having been approved by World Rugby Council. Enhancing the existing July and November international windows, the new competition will take place on a biannual basis, creating a four-year cycle of rugby alongside the British & Irish Lions Tours and Rugby World Cup.
To further strengthen the performance pathway, World Rugby will create a Challenger Series that will serve as a second division to the new elite competition, both launching in 2026.
Play off matches between the two competitions, to decide promotion and relegation will be in place from 2030, to take effect in 2032. This is in line with game wide commitment to create competitive development opportunities across the sport, for its nations and players.
The International Rugby Players have been instrumental in proposing the welfare reforms, within which the international and club game will operate. Player welfare has and continues to be the backbone of the transformational changes to the rugby calendars. Players and their Associations have helped build the competitions and formats, ensuring the strongest proposition for them, as well as fans all over the world.
Commenting on the set of new reforms approved by the World Rugby Council, Tom Harrison, CEO of Six Nations Rugby, said:
“This is a defining moment for rugby, and testament to a huge amount of collaboration across the game to build the strongest possible calendars. The changes will bring balance to the international and club game, adding greater meaning to every fixture. These changes will excite players and fans and pave the way for the global growth of the sport, and the role Six Nations Rugby can play to support this is hugely exciting.
The players have been at the heart of all decision making, and changes to the calendars, making sure their wellbeing remains a priority. Their involvement will continue to be a cornerstone of plans to grow the game, and fundamental in shaping a new era for the game.”