Rugby World Cup : Welcome ceremony brings home reality of Rugby World Cup's imminent kickoff

The wait for the highly anticipated women's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand is over - almost.

On Monday, all 12 teams gathered at Auckland's SkyCity for the event's official welcoming ceremony, where they were met with a multicultural greeting reflecting Aotearoa's diversity - including a pōwhiri - and some words of inspiration from organisers.

On Saturday, the tournament begins in earnest with a tripleheader at Eden Park, headlined by the Black Ferns' clash with old foes Australia.

For Ferns captain Ruahei Demant, the event is a reminder that the time for talking is nearly done.

"It's very real now, " Demant told Newshub. "The fact that everyone's here, we've been welcomed, the tournament is finally starting... the reality of hosting and playing in a World Cup here at home has finally sunk in."

Demant says the Black Ferns have spoken about their vision for the event and the long-lasting impression they want to leave on the game beyond the tournament itself.

"As a playing group, we've spoken about doing things like never before," she added. "This is the first year we've had contracts.

"Girls have left behind their job and been able to focus solely on footy. I'm hoping that we're able to inspire the country, inspire the future, but also inspire each other when we go out there and take the field."

NZ captain Kennedy Simon & Aussie counterpart Shannon Perry
NZ captain Kennedy Simon & Aussie counterpart Shannon Perry. Photo credit: Photosport

Organisers hope the tournament will leave a lasting legacy for the women's game in New Zealand through venue upgrades, including more inclusive, gender-neutral facilities.

For newcomers Fiji, the occasion is highly momentous. The sevens giants will make their World Cup debut this month.

Captain Sereima Leweniqila dubs their qualification a milestone moment for Fijian rugby and believes it could usher in a new era for the sport.

"We're proud and it's an honour," said Leweniqila. "We're creating history in our country and the country is getting behind us.

"It's been amazing. It's been such a journey coming into the World Cup.

"We didn't realise how big it was as well. We're just entirely grateful to be a part of it and we're just ready to get out there."

Australian captain Shannon Parry added: "It was a fantastic opening ceremony and just the cultural experience, as well was something that we'll definitely cherish."

Watch the Rugby World Cup live on Spark Sport or free-to-air on Three, or join us on October 8 for live updates of the Black Ferns v Australia World Cup opener