Otago Daily Times

Black Ferns to meet Wales and Australia



WELLINGTON: The defending champion Black Ferns have been drawn to play Wales, Australia and the winner of the final qualifying tournament in their pool at next year's women's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

The draw was made in Auckland yesterday.

Canada, the US and the respective winners of the European and Asian tournament­s are in pool B.

England, France, South Africa and Fiji are in pool C.

The 12team tournament will be played in Auckland and Whangarei in September and

October next year.

‘‘It is interestin­g how the pools have come out,’’

New Zealand

Blackwell said.

‘‘We have an Australasi­an

captain Eloise pool, North American and European. Every time we come up against Australia it is a massive battle.

‘‘But we're not going to be defending the title, we're out there to win it.’’

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who attended the draw, said the tournament would take on added significan­ce for rugby and women's sport.

"PreCovid19 this tournament was going to be important to New Zealand,’’ Ardern said. ‘‘Now it takes on a extra special dimension for the whole world.

‘‘This is huge for us. I would like to think that we are trying to show leadership around women in sport.

‘‘We need to demonstrat­e that people want to come out and support our Black Ferns because they are exceptiona­l athletes, not women athletes, athletes.’’

The seedings were based on rankings from January 1, 2020 as restrictio­ns imposed to halt the spread of the coronaviru­s meant none of the southern hemisphere teams were able to play this year.

Matches will be held in Auckland and Whangarei. The final will be at Eden Park, which hosted the 1987 and 2011 men's World Cup finals but the full match schedule is yet to be released.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont, who was unable to attend the draw because of ongoing travel restrictio­ns, believes that New Zealand 2021 will raise the bar on and off the field.

‘‘New Zealand 2021 will not simply raise the bar in terms of event hosting, it will shine a bright light on the sport and its incredible players to make the statement that the rise of women in rugby is real, is powerful and is transforma­tional,’’ he said.

‘‘The growth we've experience­d in women's rugby is proof of the ‘see it, be it, play it' mantra, which is at the heart of our ambitious 201725 Women in Rugby plan to inspire participat­ion and audience engagement across all age groups.

‘‘New Zealand 2021, coupled with the enormous stage that the Olympics provides, will champion that mantra in a golden year for women in rugby and a year of celebratio­n for our sport.

‘‘I am confident that New Zealand will be a very special and successful tournament, and preparatio­ns are on track to support my confidence. New Zealand does rugby events very well, New Zealanders love women's rugby, and we are challengin­g New Zealanders to set a new attendance record,’’ he said. — RNZ/Reuters

 ??  ?? Eloise Blackwell
Eloise Blackwell

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