Source: FERUGBY

Spain to host a Tier of WXV?

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Reports from Madrid (www.elconfidencial.com/deportes/rugby/2024-01-03/espana-world-series-juegos-olimpicos-copa-mundo-seleccion_3802457/) suggest that the federation (RFER) has full confidence in Las Leonas in regaining their place in WXV2 this year. One possibility is that the tournament might take place in the Spanish capital.

As with every other rugby nation, they have twin aims in view: the 2024 WXV and the 2025 World Rugby. How they balance them up will be one of the fascinations of the coming year.

Spain’s first challenge would be to defeat the side finishing fifth in the coming Six Nations. That was an adjustment to the regulations introduced at a late date, meaning that Italy had to play off against them. They couldn’t just walk untroubled into WXV2.

Le Azzurre won that decider comfortably 23-0, sentencing Las Leonas to WXV3, where they failed by the tightest margin (13-15) to beat Ireland to the top place.

But the RFER seems willing to stage either WXV2 or WXV3, depending on how its national side succeeds. Europe always seemed a likely venue for the second WXV. One question is whether it would be proper for it to stage two tiers. It seems unlikely. Two other leading contenders, France and England, have their hands full, one with the Olympics, the other with a World Cup.

The new Italy-Spain challenge is another step towards Spanish players being offered high-level match practice to ready them for the big time. In essence, it gives the selectors the chance to survey the best 50 players as a prelude to whittling them down to an elite squad for future contests.

We will get an initial indication of standards as the two Spanish teams take on Italy on 7 January. Will members of PWR clubs in England be allowed to participate? These matches clash directly with Round Seven of PWR. The global calendar can’t satisfy everyone!

The Federation admits the lack of resources offered to the national side in recent years, but has full confidence in their promise. It now gives an impression similar to Italy’s of giving proper backing to its women’s team.

Venues

RFER’s unconfirmed willingness to offer a venue for one of the WXV tiers is heartening in itself. In my coverage of WXV I’ve suggested that World Rugby might find it tricky getting three countries to provide hosting facilities. Even New Zealand found it impossible to attract the crowds expected to watch the six best nations on earth dispute WXV1.

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