England and New Zealand, the top two sides in women’s rugby, will come face to face again in a three-Test series in November and December with the finale again staged at Twickenham after the men’s teams go head to head.
The 2011 series ended in England’s favour with two victories and a draw against the world champions, who were playing their first Tests since beating their traditional rivals in the final of Women’s Rugby World Cup 2010 over a year earlier.
England, who will also meet France in a one-off Test on 3 November, and New Zealand will come face to face first at Esher RFC on 23 November and lock horns again four days later at the Army Rugby Stadium in Aldershot.
The final Test will be at Twickenham on 1 December and will be shown live on Sky Sports with free entry to fans after the final whistle of the men’s international between England and world champions New Zealand.
“We are really looking forward to this autumn with four tough matches in a relatively short period of time,” said England coach Gary Street.
“France are getting stronger all the time, with the incentive of the Women’s Rugby World Cup at home in 2014, and this will also be a great opportunity to give some of our younger players a chance to make a statement before the New Zealand Tests.
“New Zealand, meanwhile, will certainly be smarting after last year’s results and it’s really important that we improve on our performances from last autumn as well. We are all relishing the challenge, and players and staff alike are already excited about the next few months and setting the foundations for the next couple of years through to the World Cup.”
The four Test matches will coincide with the England Sevens team playing in a number of tournaments as they build towards RWC Sevens 2013 in Moscow, but Street is confident they have the strength in depth to challenge on both fronts.
“Juggling the Fifteens and the Sevens international programmes over the next few months will certainly be a challenge,” admitted Street.
“However we are really confident that the work we have done over the last couple of years has really strengthened our player pool as our strength in depth will be vital to manage four international Tests and three Sevens tournaments over two months.”