THE WOMEN’S Rugby World Cup kicks off in Paris this afternoon, when reigning champions New Zealand take on Kazakhstan.
England, meanwhile, open their account against Samoa today; USA take on Ireland; Australia face South Africa; France play Wales; and Canada will begin their tournament against Spain.
The Black Ferns have lifted the trophy at the last four tournaments, beating England in the final of the last three competitions. The Red Rose nation won the title in Scotland in 1994, while USA won the inaugural competition in Wales in 1991.
England have reached the final of every tournament, apart from 1998, when New Zealand beat USA to win the first of their four-in-a-row titles.
But this year’s World Cup is more than a two-horse race.
Host-nation France won this year’s Six Nations, while Ireland, Canada, USA and Australia are also considered to be genuine contenders for the title.
Pool fixtures will be played across three match days starting today, and on August 5 and 9, at France’s National Centre of Rugby in Marcoussis, one of Paris’s southern suburbs
The semi-finals and final will be staged at Stade Jean Bouin, the home of Top 14 side Stade Francais, on August 13 and 17.
The Paris club, meanwhile, will be in Beziers for the opening match of the new Top 14 campaign, where they face last season's finalists Castres Olympique.
That match is being played at the Mediterranean town because of redevelopment work at Castres' stadium.
For more information, including TV schedules in various nations, log on to the official Women’s Rugby World Cup website.
Picture: Women’s Rugby World Cup / IRB