Black Ferns to play England in nine tests
The Black Ferns will play England in a total of nine test matches over the next three years after an agreement between the New Zealand Rugby Union and England's Rugby Football Union to bolster the international women's programme.
The schedule starts in November this year with the world champion Black Ferns travelling to England for a three-test series against the second-best nation in the world.
England will also host the Black Ferns for another three-test series next year, while the two teams will contest another three tests in New Zealand in 2013.
NZRU general manager of professional rugby, Neil Sorensen, said the three-year programme provided certainty for the Black Ferns heading into the 2014 women's World Cup in France, where they will be seeking a fifth consecutive title.
"This is a huge step forward for us and the Black Ferns. We have been working for a number of years to find meaningful opportunities and opponents for the Black Ferns and we are grateful to the RFU for making this possible," Sorensen said.
"To know that we are going to see the world's two top women's rugby teams in action for nine internationals over the next three years is really exciting. It will be hugely beneficial for both teams as they prepare for the Women's Rugby World Cup."
Meanwhile, as Black Ferns coach Brian Evans is taking a break from coaching this year, assistant coach Grant Hansen will step up to the head coaching role this year with Otago women's coach John Kyle appointed his assistant.
"It's great to have John Kyle with us this year - he is a familiar face to many of the players," Hansen said.