US to play opening match at Women’s Rugby World Cup

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The United States will play the opening match of this year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup, kicking off an opening day that will feature six games.

The U.S. team, which finished fourth at the last World Cup in 2017, will face a European qualifier on Sept. 18, according to the schedule released Thursday.

Defending champion and host New Zealand will play Australia in one of three opening-day matches at Auckland’s Eden Park, which hosted the finals of the 1987 and 2011 men’s World Cups.

England, runner-up four years ago, will face Fiji at Eden Park while France will meet South Africa.

Pool matches in the 12-team tournament will be played at three venues with rounds on Sept. 18, Sept. 23 and Sept. 28.

The top two teams from each of three pools and the top two third-placed teams will advance to the quarterfinals.

World Rugby hopes the tournament will break attendance records for a women’s World Cup.

“There is a very real, unstoppable momentum building behind the rise of women in rugby now and 2021 will be a year like no other,” World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said.

Beaumont said the World Cup would provide “a unique opportunity to continue to accelerate the growth and profile of the sport as women’s rugby rightly is set to own center stage this year.”

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