Women's Rugby World Cup 2017: Holders England could face Scotland in opening pool

England players celebrate after their 2014 Women's World Cup triumph
England defeated Canada in the 2014 World Cup final in France

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.

Wales face former winners New Zealand and 2014 runners-up Canada and Fiji, Hong Kong or Japan in Pool A.

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.

All group games take place at University College in Dublin between 9-17 August before the tournament moves to Belfast.

Queen's University will stage both semi-finals. with the final taking place at Ulster's home venue, Kingspan Stadium, on 26 August.

Twenty years after their only previous World Cup triumph, England clinched the 2014 tournament by beating Canada 21-9 in the final in Paris.

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Beaumont predicts 'great' Women's World Cup

Beaumont predicts 'fantastic' World Cup

World Rugby chairman Bill Beamont said that the last tournament in France was a "watershed moment for the women's game", adding: "It had record crowds and massive TV audiences watching across the world.

"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 ladies to get involved."

Beaumont performed Wednesday's draw at Belfast City Hall alongside Olympic gold medallist Dame Mary Peters, former England player Maggie Alphonsi and ex-Ireland skipper Fiona Coghlan.

Northern Ireland's economy minister Simon Hamilton and Irish Minister of State for Sport, Patrick O'Donovan were among those who attended the draw.

Analysis

BBC Sport's Sara Orchard:

"The draw couldn't have gone any better for England, who avoided both the four-time champions New Zealand and hosts Ireland.

"There will be high expectations for the Red Roses, especially after becoming the first nation to offer professional contracts to its XVs players.

"Wales head coach Rowland Phillips has only just started his role and the next year will be a baptism of fire after his side were drawn in the toughest pool with New Zealand and 2014 runners-up Canada.

"Ireland's biggest pool opponents are reigning Six Nations champions France."

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