Four of the top six teams in the World Rugby Women's Rankings will come together in the International Women’s Series in New Zealand in June as the Black Ferns, Australia, Canada and England fine-tine preparations for Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017.
The round robin tournament will see matches take place in Wellington (9 June), Christchurch (13 June) and Rotorua (17 June) to mirror the turnaround between matches in the pool stages of the showpiece event in Ireland from 9-26 August.
The Black Ferns, four-time world champions from 1998-2010, will face their WRWC 2017 Pool A opponents Canada at Westpac Stadium ahead of the Hurricanes and Chiefs Super Rugby match in the nation’s capital.
England and Australia will also meet for the first time since the WRWC 2010 semi-finals on the same day at Porirua Park, before action moves to Christchurch for round two when New Zealand tackle Australia – the first time the Black Ferns have played in the South Island since 1997 – and the Red Roses face Canada.
The tournament will climax with a double header at Rotorua International Stadium on 17 June when Canada tackle Australia and England face New Zealand ahead of the Maori All Blacks’ encounter with the British and Irish Lions.
New Zealand were victorious against all of the visiting teams in 2016, beating Australia twice – 67-3 and 29-3 – last October and then defeating world champions England 25-20 at the Twickenham Stoop and Canada 20-10 in Dublin a month later.
“Women’s rugby is growing and growing and so is our fan base. We hope fans come out in force to support the Black Ferns on their home soil,” said New Zealand coach Glenn Moore.
“The World Cup is our focus and everything we do from now is about getting us in the best possible position for Dublin and Belfast.
“England is currently ranked second, Canada third and Australia sixth so we are expecting a tough series. Every team is out to prove themselves.”
England coach Simon Middleton, whose side currently top the Six Nations standings on points difference from WRWC 2017 hosts Ireland after three rounds, added: “We are delighted to be part of the International Women’s Series in New Zealand this summer.
“To be the best we have to play the best. Travelling to New Zealand, a fantastic rugby nation, to take on three of the best sides in the world will provide us with the ideal preparation for the World Cup in August.”
Canada, runners-up at WRWC 2014, will also face neighbours USA in the Can-Am Series in San Diego on 28 March and 1 April.
For more information on Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 and how to buy tickets, visit www.rwcwomens.com.