The top women’s sides are set to battle it out next August after the Women’s Rugby World Cup pool draw was made on Wednesday.
With the world watching live on rwcwomens.com just nine months before the tournament kicks off in Dublin, Canada were drawn in Pool A alongside New Zealand, Wales and one of the teams that will qualify from next month’s Asia/Oceania qualifier between Fiji, Japan and Hong Kong.
Reigning champions England were drawn in Pool B alongside USA, Italy and either Spain or Scotland.
Pool C sees hosts Ireland face Six Nations rivals France along with Australia and the winner of the Asia/Oceania qualifier in December.
Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 runs from 9-26 August, with the pool stages taking place at UCD Bowl in Dublin before moving to Belfast for the semi-finals and the final.
The draw, which took place in Belfast City Hall, was carried out by World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont, former Irish captain Fiona Coghlan, Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 winner Maggie Alphonsi and former Olympic medallist Dame Mary Peters.
Speaking at the draw, Beaumont said: “The last Women’s Rugby World Cup in France was a watershed moment for the women’s game, with record crowds and massive TV audiences watching across the world.
“There are some fantastic matches in store in August and, with over two million women and girls currently playing the sport, I have no doubt that next year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup in Dublin and Belfast will be a fantastic event and encourage many more women and girls to get involved with the sport.”
Irish women’s captain Niamh Briggs said: “I think the three groups are really competitive and in a Women’s Rugby World Cup with these three teams, there are no easy games.
“For us, it’s all about building towards next August and each and every game will hold something special for us.”
The remaining three #WRWC2017 teams will be known by the end of 2016, with Scotland and Spain to meet home and away in November with the winner to take the European qualifying spot.
Fiji, after beating Papua New Guinea in the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship last weekend, will meet hosts Hong Kong and Japan in a tournament from 9-17 December with the top two teams completing the WRWC 2017 line-up.