After a year’s delay, the 2021 Rugby World Cup is finally upon us with 12 of the best rugby nations coming together in New Zealand to fight for women’s rugby supremacy.
The first World Cup to be held in the Southern Hemisphere, New Zealand is prepared to put on a show with over 30,000 tickets already sold for the opening night, while England head to the tournament as favourites to take home the silverware.
Read on for everything you need to know ahead of the biggest women’s World Cup to date.
31 years since the first World Cup, this year’s tournament (retaining it’s 2021 name) will be the ninth edition, the first held in the southern hemisphere and only the second outside of Europe. The first tournament was held in Wales in 1991 and featured 12 nations, with the United States shocking England to claim the first World Cup title, before England would flip the script in 1994 for their inaugural crown.
New Zealand have claimed five of the eight tournaments, including back-to-back wins from 1998 to 2010, while England won their second in 2014.
Bringing back quarterfinals, 12 teams have been drawn into three pools of four with each team to play three round matches before the top two teams from each pool, plus the two best third placed finishers enter the knock-out stages. At the end of pool play every team will be reseeded to determine the quarterfinal match-ups with winners progressing to the semifinals.
Pool A: New Zealand, Australia, Wales, Scotland
Pool B: Canada, USA, Italy, Japan
Pool C: England, France, South Africa, Fiji
Draw (local time)
Australia vs. New Zealand, Saturday 8 Oct. 7:15pm, Eden Park
Wales vs. Scotland, Sunday 9 Oct. 5:45pm, Northland Events Centre
Scotland vs. Australia, Saturday 15 Oct. 3pm, Northland Events Centre
Wales vs. New Zealand, Sunday 16 Oct. 3:15pm, Waitakere Stadium
Australia vs. Wales, Saturday 22 Oct. 2:15pm, Northland Events Centre
New Zealand vs. Scotland, Saturday 22 Oct. 4:45pm, Northland Events Centre
Ireland overcame Wales in tough conditions in Dublin but it was the lack of hot water for showers after that caught the attention of the international media. Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Image
USA vs. Italy, Sunday 9 Oct. 12:45pm, Northland Events Centre
Japan vs. Canada, Sunday 9 Oct. 3:15pm, Northland Events Centre
USA vs. Japan, Saturday 15 Oct. 5:30pm, Northland Events Centre
Italy vs. Canada, Sunday 16 Oct. 12:45pm, Waitakere Stadium
Japan vs. Italy, Sunday 23 Oct. 12:45pm, Waitakere Stadium
Canada vs. USA, Sunday 23 Oct. 3:15pm, Waitakere Stadium
South Africa vs. France, Saturday 8 Oct. 2:15pm, Eden Park
Fiji vs. England, Saturday 8 Oct. 4:45pm, Eden Park
France vs. England, Saturday 15 Oct. 8pm, Northland Events Centre
Fiji vs. South Africa, Sunday 1 Oct. 5:45pm, Waitakere Stadium
France vs. Fiji, Saturday 22 Oct. 7:15pm, Northland Events Centre
England vs. South Africa, Sunday 23 Oct. 5:45pm, Waitakere Stadium
Pool rounds: Saturday 8 Oct, Sunday 9 Oct, Saturday 15 Oct, Sunday 16 Oct, Saturday 22 Oct, Sunday 23 Oct.
Quarterfinal 1: Saturday 29 Oct. 4:30pm, Northlands Event Centre
Quarterfinal 2: Saturday 29 Oct. 7:30pm, Northland Event Centre
Quarterfinal 3: Sunday 30 Oct. 1:30pm, Waitakere Stadium
Quarterfinal 4: Sunday 30 Oct. 4:30pm, Waitakere Stadium
Semifinal 1: Saturday 5 Nov. 4:30pm, Eden Park
Semifinal 2: Saturday 5 Nov. 7:30pm, Eden Park
Bronze Final: Saturday 12 Nov. 4:30pm, Eden Park
Grand Final: Saturday 12 Nov. 7:30pm, Eden Park
Five players to watch
Bienne Terita (AUS):
Although she’s made just one appearance in the gold jersey, Terita was sensational on her Test debut, scoring two tries, her first with just her second touch of the ball. A member of the all-conquering Aussie sevens squad, the 19-year-old has plenty of pace and adds firepower out wide for the Wallaroos. Expect the wing to build throughout the tournament and find space while linking with sevens teammate Sharni Williams.
Bienne Terita scored two tries for the Wallaroos on her Test debut Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Kendra Cocksidge (NZL):
Bowing out of international rugby following the tournament, Cocksedge is one of the most experienced players at the World Cup; she has featured in more Black Ferns matches than have been played without her. A dynamo for the Black Ferns, the 34-year-old loves to snipe around the ruck and has plenty of tries to her name. With New Zealand eyeing a sixth title, the halfback will play a key role and is sure to bring plenty of entertainment.
Poppy Cleall (ENG): A destructive backrower, Cleall has been an integral part in England’s rise to the top over the past five years. Part of a team filled with talent, the 30-year-old is a vital cog in their machine as she easily slips between the second and backrow as needed. The leading try-scorer in the English Premiership, and 2021 England Player of the Year, Cleall has been in fine form heading into the tournament and will no doubt make a statement in their opening clash against Fiji.
Laure Sansus (FRA): Another star player preparing to hang up the boots, Sansus heads to her final World Cup on the hunt for silverware in a team that will challenge for the title. Often compared to Antoine Dupont, the French scrum-half has established herself as one of the northern hemisphere’s best after claiming the 2022 Six Nations Player of the Tournament with the most tries and try assists in the competition.
Vitalina Naikore (FIJ): In their first World Cup tournament, Fiji face a hard task in one of the toughest pools. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect to see some of the free-flowing attack we’ve come to expect from the Pacific nation. Making an impression in Super W this year, Naikore finished the competition as one of the top try scorers, and continued her impressive form at international level, scoring a hat trick in a World Cup training match against New Zealand Wahine Maori. An impressive finisher, if given the chance and space, Naikore will create plenty of headaches for opposition defences.
Five key match-ups
New Zealand vs. Australia, Saturday Oct 8 7:15pm, Eden Park
The main event on the opening night of the tournament, the trans-Tasman rivals will face off in front of what is expected to be a near sell-out crowd at Eden Park. While the Black Ferns head into the fixture unbeaten by the Wallaroos after 22 Tests, Australia proved in their final O’Reilly Cup match in Adelaide that they’re catching up to the World Champions and will be determined to crash the Black Ferns’ party on the opening night. Either way the results fall, this match will set the tone for the rest of their campaigns and potentially the rest of the tournament.
Canada vs. USA, Sunday 23 Oct 3:15pm, Waitakere Stadium
Fierce rivals, Canada and USA will head into the match with plenty on the line. The final pool clash for both sides, this game will likely determine who will finish top of Pool B and will impact who they’ll face in the quarterfinals and beyond. Playing each other once earlier this year, Canada came away with a big win in the wet, but there’s no guarantees in tournament play with tired bodies and injuries sure to play a role in the result.
Sarah Bern was named player of the match as England set up a Women’s Rugby World Cup against New Zealand. David Rogers/Getty Images
England vs. France, Saturday 15 Oct 8pm, Northland Events Centre
Two of the tournament’s favourites to lift the trophy, the possible grand final preview will be played out midway through the pool phase and will give fans a good look at just what these two teams can produce. England took home the chocolates earlier this year in a strong win to seal the Six Nations, but France can’t be ruled out and will be motivated by the chance to derail England’s route to a third title.
Fiji vs. South Africa, Sunday 16 Oct 5:45pm, Waitakere Stadium
In their first tournament, Fiji will be keen to make an impression and with the potential to reach the quarterfinals with just one pool phase win they’ll have their eyes on shocking South Africa. With England and France in their pool, this clash could have repercussions in quarterfinal placements, but should also prove to be a high-pace exciting game with Fiji expected to bring some flair to the tournament.
Wales vs. Australia, Saturday 22 October 2:45pm, Northland Events Centre
The final pool match for both teams, this match has the potential to determine who’ll reach the quarterfinals and who they’ll face. In a tight pool, every point will be crucial ahead of reseeding with teams keen to avoid England, France and New Zealand in the first knockout stage. Last facing each other at the 2014 World Cup, where Australia got the best of Wales, there will be an element of the unknown for both teams in what should be an entertaining match-up.