Auckland, Dunedin and Wellington will host WXV 1 later this year as the world’s top teams return to New Zealand a year on from a record-breaking Rugby World Cup.

The announcement will enable more fans across New Zealand to see world champions Black Ferns in action, along with five of the top-ranked teams, including England, France and Wales. WXV 1 will run from 20 October to 4 November with each venue hosting a standalone Friday test followed by a Saturday double-header.

Nationwide celebration set for New Zealand

Following a record-breaking Rugby World Cup 2021, the world’s best players will return to New Zealand for a nationwide celebration of international women’s rugby. The matches will be played at Go Media Stadium, Mt Smart (Auckland), Sky Stadium (Wellington) and Forsyth Barr Stadium (Dunedin).

So far, England, France and Wales have secured their places in WXV 1 by virtue of their performances in the TikTok Women’s Six Nations 2023. They will be joined by the top three finishers from this year’s World Rugby Pacific Four Series, which features Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA and resumes on 29 June in Brisbane, Australia.

Fans will be able to register their interest in tickets in advance here to ensure they are first in line to secure seats once the final match schedule has been confirmed.

An announcement regarding the venue for WXV 2 in Cape Town and WXV 3 will be made shortly.

Excitement building for WXV

World Rugby’s Chief of Women’s Rugby, Sally Horrox said: “We are thrilled to head to Auckland, Dunedin and Wellington for WXV 1 and to Cape Town in South Africa for WXV 2 as we push forward with our planning for the inaugural tournament alongside our hosts, New Zealand Rugby and South Africa Rugby. 

“In New Zealand, from the get-go, we were committed to ensuring the tournament travelled to both the North and South Islands, showcasing some of the top teams in the world across the country and we can’t wait to see the players and the fans back watching international rugby this October.”

Former Black Ferns captain and New Zealand Rugby Board Deputy Chair Dame Farah Palmer said: “Fans across the world are going to be watching WXV 1 and watching Aotearoa and it’s an absolute privilege to have talented wāhine from the top six teams in the world playing across our country. Last year’s Rugby World Cup gave New Zealanders a taste of how thrilling and exciting the women’s game is, and now we have the chance to showcase these world-class athletes across our country.

“We hope to see fans re-ignite the passion they showed for rugby and women’s sport during the Rugby World Cup and to re-create the unique and exciting atmosphere that captured the imagination of the rugby world.”

WXV is being supported by partners Mastercard, Capgemini and Gallagher, with World Rugby also injecting multi-million pound investment funding over an initial two-year period in the sprint to an expanded 16-team Rugby World Cup 2025 in England.

Sky Stadium, Wellington (20-21 October)

Known colloquially as the ‘Cake Tin’, Sky Stadium in Wellington is the largest venue slated for use during WXV 1, with a capacity of 34,500.

One of the Hurricanes Poua’s home venues in Super Rugby Aupiki, Sky Stadium has only previously hosted one women’s test. That came in June 2017, when the Black Ferns warmed up for their RWC 2017-winning campaign with a 28-16 victory against Canada.

Used as a venue for RWC 2011 – under the name, Wellington Regional Stadium – it hosted eight matches during the tournament, including Tonga’s famous pool-stage win against France and quarter-final victories for Wales and Australia.

Sky Stadium also hosted the Wellington round of the men’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series between 2000-17, a tournament the hosts won on nine occasions.

Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin (27-28 October)

Used by Super Rugby Aupiki 2023 champions Matatū as a home venue, Forsyth Barr Stadium was built for use at Rugby World Cup 2011 and was the world’s first fully enclosed natural turf stadium when it opened 12 years ago.

Boasting a capacity of 30,748, the venue – known as Otago Stadium during RWC 2011 – played host to four pool-stage matches. England particularly enjoyed their time in Dunedin, beating Argentina, Georgia and Romania while Ireland beat Italy in the other match to be staged there.

Since its involvement in the men’s showpiece tournament, Forsyth Barr Stadium has staged eight test matches, all involving the All Blacks, who were unbeaten at the venue until a 23-12 defeat to Ireland last July.

Home to the Highlanders, and famed for its raucous atmosphere, the stadium hosted a tour match between the Super Rugby Pacific side and the British and Irish Lions in 2017. It will also stage six group-stage matches during the FIFA Women’s World Cup in July and August.

Go Media Stadium, Mt Smart, Auckland (3-4 November)

Primarily associated with rugby league, having been home to NRL side the New Zealand Warriors since 1995, Go Media Stadium, Mt Smart is no stranger to hosting rugby matches.

Indeed, it staged its first and so far only women’s test in October 2005, when an England team featuring future Rugby World Cup winners Rocky Clark, Maggie Alphonsi and Danielle Waterman beat Samoa 53-0.

Previously, the stadium in Auckland had hosted a tour match between North Harbour and the British and Irish Lions in 1993, before the New Zealand Māori beat Samoa there three years later.

Tonga played a Pacific Barbarians team at Mount Smart in 2014 and more recently, in 2021, it staged three matches in two weekends, including Samoa’s 42-13 victory over the ‘Ikale Tahi in a RWC 2023 qualifier. Since 2022, the South Auckland stadium has also been home to Super Rugby Pacific side Moana Pasifika. –

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