|A confrontation that will become a regular sight |
over the next three years
The announcement follows England's plan, announced last year, to play more tests and home and away over the next three years.
The first series will be in England this autumn, followed by a similar series - also in England - in 2012. England will then travel south in June 2013 to play New Zealand on their home turf - which will be England's first visit (and New Zealand's first home test, Australia aside) since 2005.
The series come as the result of an agreement signed yesterday by the RFU and the NZRU, no doubt driven by the possibility of attracting crowds similar to that at the World Cup Final at the Stoop last year. That resulted in an attempt to get the Black Ferns to return again last autumn, an attempt that fell through only at the last minute mainly due to problems at England's end, though the parlous financial state of NZRU will not have helped (and it is significant that England will be doing most of the "big lifting" in this by hosting the first two series).
This autumn's tests will be on November 26th, November 29th and December 3rd. All venues and kick off times will be confirmed in due course.
A few quotes from the RFU Press Release:
Rosie Williams: “We are really excited about this announcement. It is the first time that we have had a three year commitment to play New Zealand and this will do wonders from both a playing and profile perspective. This agreement is the icing on the cake for us. We now have regular tests against the current World Champions, as well against the USA and Canada in the Nations Cup, and of course Europe’s best in the Women’s RBS 6 Nations. We could not have delivered this significant improvement to our competition programme without the support of our colleagues at the RFU. This agreement is a testament to how serious women’s rugby is now being taken in England.”
Neil Sorensen (NZRU General Manager Professional Rugby): “This is a huge step forward for us and the Black Ferns. We have been working for a number of years to find meaningful opportunities and opponents for the Black Ferns and we are grateful to the RFU for making this possible. To know that we are going to see the world’s two top women’s rugby teams in action for nine internationals over the next three years is really exciting. It will be hugely beneficial for both teams as they prepare for the Women’s Rugby World Cup. We have not only achieved a regular programme against quality opposition but we have also been able to create a fantastic touring opportunity for these teams funded in large part by the RFU which demonstrates the respect that is held for our world champions.”