Official recognition of women's internationals was not immediate. Almost all women's rugby was originally organised outside of the control of either national unions or World Rugby (WR). Partly as a result no internationally agreed list of rugby internationals exists. However, even in the men's game, WR does not decide which matches are "full internationals" (or "test matches"), leaving such decisions up to participating unions.
As a result, one country may classify a match as a full international (and award full test caps) while the opposition may not – countries may even award caps for games against an opposition that is not a national team (World XVs, for example).
International rugby initially grew slowly. Sweden joined France and the Netherlands in 1984, followed by Italy in 1985, but it was not until 1987 that the first international took place outside Europe. However, since 2003 the game has expanded rapidly and now over 50 nations have played at least one "test match".
Over 1,000 internationals have now been played. Traditional centres of rugby New Zealand, England and France have been the most successful nations, but they have been joined by a number of "non-traditional" nations who have also been successful, such as the United States and Canada.
Unlike men's rugby, there was historically no official ranking of women's teams — prior to 2016, WR generally referred to the placings in the preceding World Cup. However, Rugby Europe compiles an annual ranking of European teams and rugby statistician Serge Piquet has produced a currently unofficial, but generally accepted, world ranking list. Another ranking list appears on The Roon Ba website .
Individual unions compile their own international records. As a result, the list below will conflict with some of these "official" records (much in the same way as they will conflict with each other) as unions:
may not include some games in their official records because they fielded a below strength team in a tournament for full international XVs, or
may include games which are not listed below because they fielded a full strength team in a friendly against an unofficial or "A" team.
For consistency this list has used the following criteria when defining what is or is not an international:
Tournament games between national representative XVs from tournaments for full international teams, regardless of an individual union's selection policy;
"Friendly" fixtures which it appears were generally promoted prior to the game as being between full strength national XVs. In case of doubt the opinion of the home union – i.e. the promoter of the game – has carried the most weight.
Fixtures between official national selections and supra-national teams (such as "World XVs").
Each women's international match is prefixed by a unique running number, has a three number suffix indicating how many games each team had played up to this point, and how many games had been played between the two sides. For example:
The World Rugby Rankings for women is a ranking system for women's national teams in rugby union, managed by World Rugby, the sport's governing body. The teams of World Rugby's member nations are ranked based on their game results, with the most successful teams being ranked highest. A point system is used, with points being awarded based on the results of World Rugby-recognized international matches. The women's rankings are calculated in the same manner as WR's existing men's rankings, with minor adjustments to reflect historic differences between women's and men's rugby.
The following table shows the teams in the World Rugby Ranking as they were on 1 July 2019.
Before early 2016, there was no official World Rugby ranking list for women's rugby. Several unofficial lists have been produced, with the list developed by Serge Piquet in 2009 having widest circulation following its adoption by women's rugby website ScrumQueens.com in 2013.
The system is similar in many ways to that used by WR for its men's rankings, and includes data from every women's international match since 1982.
Match points are awarded to each country as follows:
1. Match level – generally the mean of combined points the two teams before the match, with a minima.
2. The result – 400 points for a win, 200 for a draw, 100 for a defeat or 0 for a forfeit in an official competition.
3. Match venue – 100 points is shared between the two teams. A team playing at home against an opponent from another continent gets 0 point, but 100 is awarded to their opponents. 25 points goes to the home team if the opponent is from the same continent, and 75 for their opponents. 50 goes to each team if they are playing on neutral ground.
4. Number of scored points and the points difference.
5. World Cup – a bonus of 50 points for games in qualifying rounds, 100 in pool phases of the finals, 150 for play offs and 200 for the final.
Matches against A, B, Emerging, Amateur, Junior, Student, Army, Police or Services teams (and provinces/clubs when these games are part of official competitions) are also taken into account.
After each match a team's new ranking points total will be equal to the sum of 10% of their match points, and 90% of the ranking number before the match. This method evens out occasional surprise results and ensures that the ranking rewards consistency of performance.
Finally, in order that current form is given priority over historic performances, points gained from past matches decrease by 2% per year.
Differences between men's and women's rankings
Although the ranking is similar in principle to that produced by WR for men's rugby since 2003 and women's rugby since 2016, there are some differences that take into account differences in women's rugby.
The WR system, for both men and women, does not account for the level of the teams — the winner gains some points, and the loser loses them, regardless of the relative levels of the opponents. This means that a lower-tier team will lose ranking points with a loss to a higher-tier team, even if the result is much closer than expected. Given the sometimes wide variation in strength of teams — even in the same competition — this is too simplistic for women's rugby.
The WR ranking also does not account for matches against "special" teams, especially those that are not WR members — but for many of the smaller women's nations, games against teams such as England "A" are more significant, tougher, and often as good a guide to their strength, if not better, than those against some full-strength test teams. As a result, such games are included in this ranking.
Finally, a new team added to WR's rankings is arbitrarily awarded a fixed number of points (currently 30 in the men's game, and 40 in the women's game). before December 2012, a men's team had to play at least 10 matches to be classified. Given the number of tests women's teams play this would be a significant barrier to inclusion.
An alternative ranking is available at the site 22metri and is based on the WR calculation method applied to the games played from January 2010 with teams assigned an arbitrary starting points of 40, 30 and 20 based on tier. The ranking is similar to the one from Scrumqueens, as expected.
^A try was only worth four points in 1982, the five point try not coming in until 1992.
^"'Definition of an "international" used in this article.'" This article, with its accompanying match list and associated data as well as the statistical summary of each team's relative success – only includes matches that most independent observers appear to treat as "full internationals" (or "test matches"). These may be defined as:
Tournament games between national representative XVs from tournaments for full international teams;
"Friendly" fixtures which it appears were generally promoted prior to the game as being between full strength national XVs
Other fixtures which most independent authorities (as opposed to individual unions) appear to treat as full internationals (such as games involving "World XVs").
As a result, the list may conflict with some "official" records published by some national unions who:
may not include all of these games in their official records (most often because the Union concerned fielded a below strength team in a tournament for full international XVs), or
my include games which fail to meet the above definitions (most often because they fielded a full strength team in a friendly against an unofficial or "A" team).