The interim Welsh Rugby Union chief executive believes the 12-team tournament, which is set to begin in 2026, will enrich the global calendar, help raise playing standards and provide spectators with even more meaningful fixtures.
Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR have been working in partnership, alongside global rugby stakeholders, to bring to life a new international rugby competition that will enhance the existing July and November test windows.
The creation of the new competition has been a collective process involving stakeholders from across the sport, including World Rugby, Unions, key leagues, competitions, and crucially, the International Rugby Players Association.
Set to begin in 2026, the new elite competition will feature each of the Six Nations Rugby sides, the SANZAAR teams and two spaces reserved for invitational teams.
“The desire from all stakeholders to create this ground-breaking competition has enabled us to get to a point where the dream of a more streamlined global season can actually become a reality,” said Walker.
“In that sense it is a momentous moment for the game across the world – and one we should all be doing our best to support and maximise.
“One of the key points in the creation of this new format has been working closely with the International Rugby Players Association. Player welfare has been at the heart of every conversation and decision.”
WRU chair Ieuan Evans added:
“The new competition will offer Welsh players a chance to compete against the best teams and players in the world on a more regular basis, and with both national pride and more at stake every time they take the field.
“The aim is to both grow the game and make it more sustainable and the WRU welcomes and applauds this initiative.”
Owned and operated by Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR, the elite competition will take place in alternating years, to account for the British & Irish Lions Tours and Rugby World Cup.
The connection with International Rugby Players Association has been key in supporting the wider conversations around the club and international calendar taking place in parallel 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 both competitions.
Establishing the two competitions will pave the way for promotion and relegation, that will be introduced in 2030. This element will further enhance the proposition fans can look forward to, as well as supporting the growth of the global game.
The introduction of the new elite international competition is testament to the strong ambition across all stakeholders, motivated by a shared goal of delivering context and a stronger narrative around the July and November windows, that can excite fans and players.
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 to the club and international calendar; a process Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR remain committed to help deliver.