In less than two months a new dawn will break for women’s rugby when the first round of the inaugural edition of WXV gets underway in Dubai and Stellenbosch.
On Monday, it was confirmed that Danie Craven Stadium and Athlone Sports Stadium would host WXV 2, meaning we now know the identity of all six venues at which the competition’s debut campaign will unfold.
Sky Stadium, Forsyth Barr Stadium and Go Media Stadium Mt Smart will stage the top level between 20 October-4 November, while WXV 3 will take place at The Sevens Stadium in Dubai between 13-28 October.
No stranger to hosting top-level sporting events, here is what you need to know about each.
The top level of WXV will get underway on 20 October, when 2023 Women’s Six Nations winners England take on Australia at Sky Stadium in Wellington.
One of three venues being used for WXV 1, Sky Stadium has a capacity of 32,000 and has previously only hosted one women’s test – a 28-16 victory for the Black Ferns against Canada in June 2017.
Sky Stadium is one of the Hurricanes Poua’s home venues in Super Rugby Aupiki, while it was used during RWC 2011 and hosted the Wellington round of the men’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series between 2000-17.
WXV 1 then heads to Dunedin, at the bottom of New Zealand’s South Island, where the second round of matches will be played between 27-28 October.
Used as a home venue for Super Rugby Aupiki champions Matatū, Forsyth Barr Stadium was built for use during RWC 2011, playing host to four pool-stage matches.
The stadium has never hosted a women’s test but staged six group-stage matches during the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Go Media Stadium Mt Smart in Auckland will host the final round of the inaugural edition of WXV, headlined by the Black Ferns’ encounter with the Red Roses, between 3-4 November.
England took part in the only women’s test to be played at the venue to date, when a team featuring future Rugby World Cup winners Rocky Clark, Maggie Alphonsi and Danielle Waterman beat Samoa 53-0 in October 2005.
Although primarily associated with rugby league, Go Media Stadium Mt Smart has staged a host of men’s tests, including Samoa’s 42-13 RWC 2023 qualifying victory against Tonga.
The curtain will come up on the maiden WXV 2 campaign when Italy take on Japan at Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch on 13 October.
That match will be followed by Scotland’s encounter with hosts South Africa and, a day later, USA’s meeting with Samoa.
Those will be the first women’s tests to be played at the famous stadium, which recently hosted matches during the World Rugby U20 Championship 2023, including three play-offs on the final day.
Athlone Sports Stadium – which hosted the semi-finals and final of this year’s U20 Championship – will then welcome the teams for the second and third rounds of WXV 2, played between 20-28 October.
The venue in Cape Town is also set to stage women’s tests for the first time, starting with USA v Scotland on 20 October.
International men’s rugby has only been played at Athlone Sports Stadium once previously. On 22 May, 1972 – shortly after the ground had been built – England beat a South Africa Rugby Federation XV 11-6.
All nine matches in the 2023 WXV 3 tournament will be played at The Sevens Stadium in Dubai, starting on 13 October when Fiji take on Colombia.
The way the fixture list has fallen means that Colombia will have featured in the first three women’s tests to be played at the venue.
Las Tucanes beat Kazakhstan – who will also be back in Dubai for WXV 3 – at the RWC 2021 Final Qualification Tournament there last February to set up a showdown with Scotland that they lost.
More recently, The Sevens Stadium hosted the RWC 2023 Final Qualification Tournament, which ended in dramatic fashion as Portugal secured their return to the men’s showpiece event in France later this year.
No stranger to international rugby, or World Rugby events, The Sevens Stadium has also been used as a home ground by the UAE and was an ever-present on the World Series between 2007-23.
It will host the opening round of HSBC SVNS this December and was also the venue for Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009, the first to feature a women’s event.