World Rugby and hosts New Zealand Rugby have announced the match schedule for Rugby World Cup 2021, playing in 2022.
The schedule supports the ambition of an accessible event that will set new attendance and fan-engagement records, taking the sport to new audiences worldwide when it kicks off with three matches on 8 October 2022.
Apart from two Pool C clashes – South Africa v France (kick-off at 14h15 NZ time; 03h15 SA time) and England v Fiji, the third encounter will be between hosts and reigning champions New Zealand against Australia in a primetime evening slot, with organisers hoping to set a new attendance record.
“It's really positive for us to play in the opening game on a day when all eyes will be on New Zealand,” said Lynne Cantwell, SA Rugby’s High Performance Manager for Women’s rugby.
“The tournament has a format, which is more in line with the men and with all games taking place on weekends, which will encourage attendance and viewership, and hopefully sponsorship on the long term.”
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 maximising opportunities to attend the first event to be hosted in Oceania.
The match schedule has also been optimised for broadcast audiences worldwide, meaning fans will not miss a moment from a feast of weekend action. The pool phase will be played on the weekends of 8/9, 15/16 and 22/23 October at Eden Park and Waitakere Stadium in Auckland, and Northlands Events Centre in Whangārei.
The Springbok Women’s second pool match is against tournament debutants Fiji at Waitakere Stadium on Sunday, 16 October (17h45 NZ time; 06h45 SA time), followed by their third round clash against England in Whangārei on Sunday, 23 October (17h45 NZ time; 06h45 SA time).
“It’s exciting to be involved in the opening game of the tournament against France, then we face Fiji – a match we really want to do well in – followed by a tough match against England,” said Springbok Women’s coach Stanley Raubenheimer.
“In terms of our pool opponents, only the schedule has changed, and we are still preparing for all three, and we are looking forward to the challenge now that we have the actual match dates and kick-off times.”
Cantwell added: “To start off against France is exciting – they have placed third in the last three Rugby World Cups and will be eyeing a place in the final. However, historically they have been a bit shaky early in tournaments, which can be good for us.
“It will certainly be a humdinger of a game and is a great way for us to kick off the RWC, as our second game is a really important fixture against Fiji, so we’ll go into that match with good preparation under the belt.”
The top two teams in each pool and the two best third-placed teams will progress to the quarter-finals. Teams will be seeded one to eight based on the position they finished in their respective pools and most competition points scored, with the quarter finals seeing teams paired as follows: seed 1 v seed 8, seed 2 v seed 7, seed 3 v seed 6 and seed 4 v seed 5.
The first two quarter-finals will take place on Saturday, 29 October at Northland Events Centre with Waitakere Stadium hosting the remaining two matches a day later.
World Rugby RWC 2021 Tournament Director Alison Hughes said: “This is the moment when fans in New Zealand and around the world can start to plan their Rugby World Cup 2021, playing in 2022, experience.
“We have optimised the extended tournament window to enhance player’ and fan experience at Rugby World Cup 2021. Increased rest periods will further boost performance and welfare, while the programme of matches being played at weekends means that fans will not miss a minute of what promises to be an exceptional tournament.
“I would like to thank New Zealand Rugby for their huge commitment to providing a platform that enables us to showcase the best of the best as they compete for the ultimate prize – to be crowned world champions, while providing an impactful catalyst to supercharge the growth of the women’s game worldwide.”