WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Defending champion and host New Zealand will play perennial rival Australia on the opening day of the Women’s Rugby World Cup in October next year.
The schedule released early Friday in New Zealand shows the Black Ferns playing Australia in the last of three matches on Oct. 8, 2022.
South Africa will play France in the tournament’s opening match and Fiji will make its World Cup debut against former champion England. All three matches will be played at Auckland’s 44,000-seat Eden Park, which hosted the men’s World Cup finals in 1987 and 2011.
World Rugby hopes to break the record for attendance at a women's World Cup match on opening day. The record attendance for a Women's Rugby World Cup was just over 45,400 at the 2017 edition in Ireland.
All matches in the 12-team tournament will be played on weekends between Oct. 8-Nov. 12 with triple headers either at Eden Park, Auckland’s Waitakere Stadium or in the northern New Zealand city of Whangarei.
“The match schedule will deliver more for fans than ever before with all matches taking place across bumper weekends of action, resulting in no overlapping of matches and maximizing opportunities to attend the first event to be hosted in Oceania,” World Rugby said. “The ... match schedule has also been optimized for broadcast audiences worldwide."
Teams will be split into three pools, and group matches will be played on the weekends of Oct. 8 and 9, Oct. 15-16 and Oct. 22-23. The top two teams in each pool and the two best third-placed teams will progress to the playoffs.
The quarterfinals on Oct. 29-30 will be seeded with teams ranked Nos. 1-8 on the basis of their finishing position and competition points. The quarterfinals will see the top-ranked team play the No. 8-seeded team, 2nd vs. 7th, 3rd vs. 6th, and 4th vs. 5th.
Eden Park will host the semifinals on Nov. 5 and the final and third-fourth playoff on Nov. 12.
“We have an incredible opening match day at Eden Park, including Fiji’s first match at a women’s World Cup ... and an exhilarating trans-Tasman rivalry between old foes New Zealand and Australia,” tournament director Michelle Hooper said. “We can’t wait to create an unforgettable moment for women’s sport, filling Eden Park and striving to break the world record for women’s Rugby World Cup attendance on day one.”
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