The world’s leading women’s rugby players were officially welcomed to Aotearoa New Zealand today for the inaugural WXV 1 tournament, set to kick off in Wellington this weekend.

Players from England, France, Wales, Canada,¬†Australia¬†and¬†host country New Zealand¬†were among the guests welcomed¬†by¬†local iwi¬†Te¬†Atiawa¬†with a traditional pŇćwhiri at¬†Rongomaraeroa¬†Te¬†Marae¬†in¬†Te¬†Papa, Wellington.

Students from Te Kura Kaupapa MńĀori¬†o¬†NgńĀ Mokopuna put on a stunning cultural performance, which showcased their expertise in poi, before gifting each of the six Captains with their own set of poi, created by the school pupils in each of the team‚Äôs colours.¬†

With the WXV 1 trophy on display, event Master of Ceremonies, Ken Laban said: ‚ÄúRight here, right now, is the start of a new chapter. We have seen matches over the weekend in South Africa and Dubai with WXV2 and 3 getting underway, and this weekend is your turn ‚Äď the teams in this room will write themselves into the history books as a new era of high-performance women‚Äôs rugby gets underway.‚Ä̬†

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Players, coaches, hosts and guests then took part in a poi lesson with England Captain Marlie Packer blown away by the skill of the local students.¬†‚ÄúIt was fun, but the bit where we were twirling [our poi] left, but moving to the right and coming back around, that‚Äôs when I found it quite a bit harder and it didn‚Äôt quite sit right for me, but we got there in the end.‚Ä̬†

When asked who had won the poi challenge, New Zealand Co-Captain Kennedy Simon added:¬†‚ÄúI think it was Bunts actually [New Zealand Coach Allan Bunting]. It made me really smile up there when he was trying so hard.‚Ä̬†

New Zealand Rugby Deputy Chair and former Black Fern Captain and three-time Rugby World Cup winner, Professor Dame Farah Palmer addressed the guests and remarked what a special event the WXV1 tournament promised to be.¬†‚ÄúAcross the globe right now we have 18 teams in action across WXV 1, 2 and 3 ‚Äď a new concept that is set to accelerate the international game at a time when it is already capturing the imagination of sports fans around the world.¬†

‚ÄúThis event will further ignite the passion for women‚Äôs rugby that we saw spark to life here in Aotearoa during last year‚Äôs Rugby World Cup.‚Ä̬†¬†

The WXV 1 match schedule highlights how exciting the tournament will be for the top six women‚Äôs teams in the world ‚Äď with little separating the best of the six nations and the best of the World Rugby Pacific Four Series teams.¬†¬†

Heavyweight match ups begin this weekend with the opening match between England v Australia kicking off at Sky Stadium in Wellington at 19:00 local time (GMT+12) on Friday 20 October, with a double-header Saturday featuring Canada v Wales at 16:00 before New Zealand and France square off at 19:00.  

The Friday-Saturday tournament format heads to Forysth Barr Stadium in Dunedin the following weekend before culminating at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart in Auckland on 3 and 4 November. – WORLD RUGBY

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