Jen Kish on the attack for Canada during this year's World Rugby Sevens Series. Image courtesy of Rugby Canada

Rugby World Cup 2021 aims to break the record for attendance at a women’s Rugby World Cup tournament, which is expected to be boosted by some mouth-watering matches, including hosts and reigning champions New Zealand against Australia at Eden Park on the opening day on 18 September, capping an exciting triple bill of matches at the iconic stadium.

With teams and fans at the heart of tournament planning, the match schedule has been developed to maximise the advancement of women’s rugby on the world stage. Eden Park, venue for the men’s final in 1987 and 2011, Northland Events Centre in Whangārei and Waitakere Stadium will provide the perfect stages to draw thousands of fans with attractive ticketing and entertainment programmes.

The 44,000 capacity Eden Park will also host the semi-finals on Saturday, 9 October and the bronze final and RWC 2021 final on Saturday, 16 October, giving fans plenty of opportunities to be part of something special and make women’s rugby history.

Reflecting the history-making theme, RWC 2021 will see the return of a quarter-final stage, while longer rest periods between match days and expanded squad sizes will enable the world’s top teams to perform at their best on the greatest stage for rugby.

The 12 teams will compete across three action-packed days of pool matches, Saturday 18, Thursday 23 and Tuesday, 28 September, with games to be played at Eden Park and Waitakere Stadium in Auckland, and Northland Events Centre in Whangārei.

USA will have the honour of opening the tournament, facing Europe 1 at 11:45 NZT, followed by Canada v Asia 1 at 14:15 NZT in the other Pool B match, with Wales taking on the Final Qualification Tournament Winner at 16:45 NZT to close out day one at the Northland Events Centre.

At Eden Park, France will take on South Africa at 14:15 NZT followed by England versus Fiji – who will make their Rugby World Cup debut – at 16:45 NZT, in the other Pool C match. Hosts and reigning champions New Zealand will bring the curtain down on a thrilling schedule of matches when they take on Australia at 19:15 NZT.

Click HERE for the full match schedule >>

The quarter-finals will include the top two teams from each pool and the two best third-placed teams. For RWC 2021, bonus points will again be in place.

Teams will be seeded one to eight based on the position they finished in their respective pools and most competition points scored, with seed 1 v seed 8, seed 2 v seed 7, seed 3 v seed 6 and seed 4 v seed 5.

The quarter-finals will take place on Sunday, 3 October with Waitakere Stadium hosting the first two matches.

Rugby World Cup 2021 Tournament Director Michelle Hooper said that with the announcement of the match schedule, anticipation of the tournament and the hotly-contested action it will deliver, is expected to build significantly.

“We are so proud in New Zealand to be hosting the biggest women’s sporting event in the world this year. Our team is developing a robust platform on which to deliver an incredible tournament that will draw greater attention to women’s rugby than ever before. For the fans here in New Zealand and the global audience tuning in to watch via the international broadcast, we are excited to have such a compelling and exhilarating mix of match contestants in the opening weekend.

“It will give fans a taste of the excitement from the first kick-off and have them hooked to attend or watch every match of the tournament, in a schedule that promises to deliver an action-packed and intense competition, super-charging the women’s game globally and firing up and inspiring fans around the globe.”

RWC 2021 will see the addition of a quarter-finals stage and longer rest periods between matches which increases the total tournament window from 23 to 35 days and an increased squad size from 28 to 30 players. The changes reflect World Rugby’s commitment to player welfare and to accelerate the development of the women’s game.