Stadium Light named as opening venue for 2025 World Cup
Sunderland's Stadium of Light has been chosen as the opening venue for the Women's Rugby World Cup in 2025.
The tournament kicks off on 22 August, with organisers confirming Twickenham Stadium as the final venue on 27 September.
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said he hoped England 2025 would "engage and inspire new audiences in ways that rugby events have not done before".
England have qualified for the event but Scotland and Wales have not yet.
The decision to use the 49,000 capacity Stadium of Light for the opener comes off the back of the venue announcement last summer.
The Stadium of Light is the second biggest venue behind Twickenham and one of four football grounds chosen for games along with Brighton's Amex Stadium, the York Community Stadium and Bristol's dual-purpose Ashton Gate.
Traditional rugby grounds include Sandy Park in Exeter, Salford Community Stadium in Manchester and Franklin's Gardens in Northampton.
The record overall attendance figure at the Women's Rugby World Cup was in New Zealand in 2022, when more than 140,000 fans attended games.
The number of teams at the tournament will be increasing from 12 to 16, with schedule and ticketing information set to be released in 2024.
By choosing Sunderland, the England 2025 organising committee is committing to take rugby union to a non-traditional rugby union area of the country.
There is no women's top-flight rugby side north of Manchester after Sale were given a Premiership Women's Rugby franchise in the last round.
In February Sale launched a 'Northern Rugby Matters' campaign to increase awareness of - and celebrate- the 15s code in a region which has an abundance of rugby league sides.
Leader of Sunderland City Council, councillor Graeme Miller, said: "It's incredibly exciting for Sunderland to be playing host to the opening game of the Women's Rugby World Cup at the Stadium of Light.
"The last few years have seen a massive surge of interest in women's rugby and women's sport in general, so having the opportunity to cheer on the Red Roses in a World Cup match so close to home is brilliant news for sports fans across the north east."