SUNDERLAND'S Stadium of Light will play host to England's Red Roses in the opening match of the "era-defining" 2025 Women's Rugby World Cup - with the hope that the game and the tournament can inspire young girls in the North East and perhaps even produce stars of the future.

Organisers joined England's record-appearance maker Sarah Hunter at the Stadium of Light on Monday morning to officially announce that Wearside will play host to the tournament's opening game on Friday, August 22.

The Stadium of Light is one of eight venues - with the York Community Stadium also selected - to host games in what will be the 10th running of the Women's World Cup, which has been expanded to 16 teams.

Hunter, who is from the North East, and made 141 appearances for England before going on to join the coaching staff, says the Stadium of Light opener will be an "amazing spectacle" but can also have a major role in producing and developing young rugby players of the future.

"It's huge, not only to have a Rugby World Cup game in Sunderland but to have the opening game and the Red Roses." said Hunter, who led a coaching session for dozens of young female players on the Stadium of Light pitch on Monday morning.

"We've seen how passionate the city and the region is about sport but this isn't just about the game itself, it's everything that happens before and after.

"We've seen evidence of bringing massive sporting events to cities and the impact it has. This isn't about a one-off event, it's about developing and growing the network of girls who play rugby in the city and surrounding areas.

"Being from the North East myself, when I found out the region was getting a game I was so excited and when I found out it was going to be the opening game and the Red Roses, it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up just thinking about it. I'm so proud to be from the North East and I know how much the sport means to people.

"I remember as a nine year old going down to London to watch a game at Wembley. I had to go there to watch rugby and I still look at that and have the best  memories. To have that not far from where you live and know that could be the spark that makes someone either start rugby or want to continue it, hopefully in World Cups in the future, there can be players in the Red Roses team who were inspired by this game."

Sarah Massey, managing director Women's Rugby World Cup 2025, said: "It's going to be an amazing atmosphere and a fantastic way to kick off what is going to be a generational and era-defining tournament.

"I was here for the Lionesses match recently and it was a brilliant atmosphere. I'm sure it will be the same in 2025."

Steve Grainger, executive director of rugby development at the RFU, said: "The whole reason we bid for this tournament was to grow the game so it's fantastic to be bringing this game to the North East.

"It's not just about August 22, it's about what happens before and after that as we try and inspire tens of thousands of youngsters and try to produce more Sarah Hunters.

"We want more people believing rugby is a sport for them. That is the legacy, that people feel that picking up an oval ball is something they want to do. It's a family and we want the legacy to be more people coming into that family."

Canada, England, France and New Zealand have already qualified for the World Cup after finishing in the top four at RWC 2021, with the remaining 12 positions to be filled next year.

The final will take place at Twickenham, with organisers hoping to break the 58,498 attendance record for a Women's Rugby World Cup game.