The countdown to WXV 1 is well and truly on after New Zealand Rugby confirmed which venues will host the inaugural edition of the top level of World Rugby’s new annual global 15s competition this October and November.
Following on from the record-breaking Rugby World Cup 2021, which culminated with 42,579 fans watching the Black Ferns beat England at Eden Park, the best women’s players will return to Auckland with Go Media Stadium Mt Smart confirmed as one of three host venues.
Matches will also be staged in New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, at Sky Stadium, and the tournament will venture to the South Island and Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
So far, England, France and Wales have secured their places in WXV 1 by virtue of their performances in the TikTok Women’s Six Nations 2023. They will be joined by the top three finishers from this year’s World Rugby Pacific Four Series, which features Rugby World Cup 2021 winners New Zealand, Australia, Canada and USA.
None of the three venues are new to hosting big international events. Here is everything you need to know about each.
Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Used by Super Rugby Aupiki 2023 champions Matatū as a home venue, Forsyth Barr Stadium was built for use at Rugby World Cup 2011 and was the world’s first fully enclosed natural turf stadium when it was opened 12 years ago.
Boasting a capacity of 30,748, the venue – known as Otago Stadium during RWC 2011 – played host to four pool-stage matches. England particularly enjoyed their time in Dunedin, beating Argentina, Georgia and Romania while Ireland beat Italy in the other match to be staged there.
Since its involvement in the men’s showpiece tournament, Forsyth Barr Stadium has staged eight test matches, all involving the All Blacks, who were unbeaten at the venue until a 23-12 defeat to Ireland last July.
Home to the Highlanders, and famed for its raucous atmosphere, the stadium hosted a tour match between the Super Rugby Pacific side and the British and Irish Lions in 2017. It will also stage six group-stage matches during the FIFA Women’s World Cup in July and August.
Go Media Stadium Mt Smart, Auckland
Primarily associated with rugby league, having been home to NRL side the New Zealand Warriors since 1995, Go Media Stadium is no stranger to hosting rugby matches.
Indeed, it staged its first and so far only women’s test in October 2005, when an England team featuring future Rugby World Cup winners Rocky Clark, Maggie Alphonsi and Danielle Waterman beat Samoa 53-0.
Previously, the stadium in Auckland had hosted a tour match between North Harbour and the British and Irish Lions in 1993, before the New Zealand Māori beat Samoa there three years later.
Tonga played a Pacific Barbarians team at Mount Smart in 2014 and more recently, in 2021, it staged three matches in two weekends, including Samoa’s 42-13 victory over the ‘Ikale Tahi in a RWC 2023 qualifier. Since 2022, the South Auckland stadium has also been home to Super Rugby Pacific side Moana Pasifika.
Sky Stadium, Wellington
Known colloquially as the ‘Cake Tin’, Sky Stadium in Wellington is the largest venue slated for use during WXV 1, with a capacity of 34,500.
One of the Hurricanes Poua’s home venues in Super Rugby Aupiki, the Cake Tin has only previously hosted one women’s test. That came in June 2017, when the Black Ferns warmed up for their RWC 2017-winning campaign with a 28-16 victory against Canada.
Used as a venue for RWC 2011 – under the name, Wellington Regional Stadium – it hosted eight matches during the tournament, including Tonga’s famous pool-stage win against France and quarter-final victories for Wales and Australia.
Sky Stadium also hosted the Wellington round of the men’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series between 2000-17, a tournament the hosts won on nine occasions.