Holders England will face the USA, Italy and either Scotland or Spain in their opening pool at next year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland.
Scotland will book their spot at next August’s tournament if they beat Spain in this month’s play-off over two legs.
Ireland are joined in Pool C by fellow 2014 semi-finalists France, Australia and either Fiji, Hong Kong or Japan.
New Zealand won four successive World Cups between 1998 and 2010 but were knocked out in the pool stage in France two years ago after suffering a surprise defeat by Ireland.
The winners of the Asia/Oceania qualifier between Fiji, Hong Kong and Japan will join 2013 and 2015 Six Nations champions Ireland, plus top seeds France and Australia in Pool C.
The Asia/Oceania runners-up will play in Pool A alongside Canada, New Zealand and Wales.
The Wales squad will face temperatures ranging from 42 degrees to minus 150 degrees, will sleep in normobaric hypoxic chambers and will train in surroundings ranging from the deserts of Qatar to the peaks of the Swiss Alps as part of their gruelling preparation for next year’s Rugby World Cup.
Wales’ full schedule for 2015 will see Warren Gatland’s squad undergo intensive training camps in Switzerland, Qatar and Poland as well as face home and away ties against Ireland before concluding their preparations against Italy at the Millennium Stadium.
The rigorous schedule has left no stone unturned in order to ensure Wales arrive at the world’s showpiece tournament in peak condition with leading facilities at home in Wales and across the world utilized.
The programme is the culmination of months of research and planning and WRU head of physical performance, Adam Beard, who also designed the 2011 schedule, is delighted to formally announce the squad’s plans.
The Ireland Coaching team have selected a strong side to face the Springboks at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday for the first game of the 2014 Guinness Series.
There is one new cap in the match day 23, with Ulster’s Jared Payne set to make his debut alongside Robbie Henshaw in an exciting new centre partnership.
Paul O’Connell captains the side and is joined in the engine room by Devin Toner. The backrow is made up of Jamie Heaslip, Chris Henry and Peter O’Mahony while the front row sees Jack McGrath and Mike Ross pack down either side of their provincial teammate Sean Cronin.
Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton are re-united at half-back and Tommy Bowe returns to the back three for the first time since last year’s Guinness Series and lines out alongside Simon Zebo and Rob Kearney.
Defending Champions Leinster will face Glasgow Warriors in the final of the RaboDirect PRO12 in front of a capacity crowd in Dublin tonight. Kick off is at 18:15 BST, 19:15 SA Time.
Leinster will be more familiar with the experience having played in and won many finals in the PRO12 and elsewhere in European Rugby, while it will be Glasgow Warriors first appearance ever in a final at this level.
Leinster stalwarts Brian ‘O Driscoll and captain Leo Cullen will be playing their final match for the club before they retire. The Glasgow Warriors also features players competing in the their final match for the team- Chris Cusiter, Ruaridh Jackson and Moray Low, who will be furthering their careers with clubs in England next season.
Leinster Rugby’s Jamie Heaslip talks about this weekends Rabo Pro12 final against Glasgow.
After the Heineken Cup double, last year Leinster settled for an Amlin trophy, but after being knocked out by the eventual winners, now look to the Pro12 to retain the trophy-winning streak they have cultivated over the last five years.
“They’re the positions you want to be in at this time of the year, to be playing in those games (European finals). I was awful jealous at the weekend not being involved in any sort of competition. It was the first time in a couple of years that happened.”
“We want to kick on come this week and we know the challenge ahead of us. We played these guys last year in the semis, we played them I don’t know how many times over the last couple of seasons in Europe and the league. We know that margins that are there; last year could have gone either way. I think Rob made a great tackle on the line and held a guy up over the line, one score separated the team.”
Edinburgh loose forward Cornell du Preez and Connacht duo Kieran Marmion and Nathan White have been cited after the weekend’s final round of the European Cup pool stages.
The prospect of two rival European club tournaments next season grew on Thursday when the four RaboDirect unions and France announced the Heineken Cup would continue and the English and French clubs insisted their Rugby Champions Cup would go ahead regardless.
In another significant development regarding the ongoing impasses over the future of European club rugby, representatives from the French, Irish, Welsh, Scottish and Italian unions will meet in Dublin on Thursday in an attempt to break the current logjam, and to that end will begin drawing up plans for a Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup without the English clubs.
More than 600 delegates and 30 exhibitors representing nearly 120 countries are attending the inaugural IRB World Rugby Conference and Exhibition in Dublin, which will be opened officially by IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset at 1.45pm today.
The English, French, Scottish, Welsh, Irish and Italian governing bodies have agreed to change the structure of European club rugby. After meetings in Dublin, they agreed in principle on the formation of two tweaked competitions of 20 teams each as well as a change in revenue distribution.
Billy Twelvetrees has kept his place in England’s starting XV for Sunday’s match against Ireland in Dublin, while James Haskell makes his first start in the Six Nations since 2011.
Ireland’s South Africa-born hooker Richardt Strauss is set to come face-to-face with his cousin Adriaan in Saturday’s Test match in Dublin.
This weekend saw the semi finals of the two competitions being played. The final scores were fairly close in all but one of the matches.