Canada will be tested early at next year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup, placed in Pool A with New Zealand, Wales and a qualifier.
The 12-team World Cup runs Aug. 9-26, with the pool stages in Dublin and the semifinal and final in Belfast.
The Canadian women, who were runners-up to England at the 2014 tournament, are currently ranked second in the world. New Zealand is No. 1 and Wales No. 10.
The Canadian pool will be completed by the runner-up of the Asia/Oceania qualifying tournament Dec. 9-17 in Hong Kong involving No. 17 Japan, No. 23 Hong Kong and No. 30 Fiji.
No. 3 England was drawn in Pool B with the seventh-ranked Americans, No. 8 Italy and either No. 9 Spain or No. 13 Scotland.
Pool C features No. 4 France, No. 5 Ireland, No. 6 Australia and the winner of next month’s Asia/Oceania qualifier.
“New Zealand in the pool is a big challenge but in 2014 we had England which too was a big challenge,” Canadian coach Francois Ratier said in a statement. “If you want to be world champion you’ve got to beat the best and we will meet that challenge.
“Wales are becoming more and more professional and will be looking to make a big statement. We’ll be following their Six Nations performance closely. There’s a bit of a question mark around the third team but we will follow the performance of each nation.”
Canada and England tied 14-14 in the pool stage two years ago, with England winning the group and Canada placing second. Both teams advanced to the knockout round, with England ultimately defeating Canada 21-9 in the final.
The Canadians will see how they measure up against New Zealand when the two teams meet Nov. 23 in London. Canada is also playing Ireland (Nov. 19) and England (Nov. 26) on its November tour.
“There’s no extra emphasis on the New Zealand game later this month now but I’m sure both sides will think about it,” Ratier said. “Our game preparation doesn’t change, we’ll be focused on our game performance only.”
New Zealand has won the Women’s World Cup four times – in 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010. The Black Ferns finished fifth last time out.
Canada won the Women’s Rugby Super Series in Salt Lake City in July, defeating England 52-17, the U.S. 33-5 and France 29-10.
Wednesday’s pool allocation draw took place in Belfast City Hall.
“The last Women’s Rugby World Cup in France was a watershed moment for the women’s game, with record crowds and massive TV audiences watching across the world,” said World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont. “There are some fantastic matches in store in August and, with over two million women and girls currently playing the sport, I have no doubt that next year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup in Dublin and Belfast will be a fantastic event and encourage many more women and girls to get involved with the sport.”Report Typo/Error