England to face Australia in World Cup opener
England have been handed a tough draw for their opening match of the 2005 World Cup in South Africa. Clare Connor's England will face Australia, the favourites, who lost to New Zealand in the last World Cup final in 2000.
But England are second favourites to lift the trophy. They are currently ranked second in the world, after winning their home series against New Zealand 3-2 in August.
South Africa, India, Pakistan, West Indies and Ireland will also compete in the tournament, in which all eight teams play each other in a league format. The top four then progress to the semi-finals.
Claire Taylor, England's prolific batter and wicketkeeper, told BBC Sport: "It will be a challenge to play Australia first, but what better way to gauge where we are in terms of our form?"
England won the World Cup in both 1973 and 1993, when they overturned New Zealand at Lord's in the final, and they have also reached the final on three other occasions.
Clare Connor believes her side has every chance of success when the campaign gets under way in March. She said: "Everyone talks about having the right mix of youth and experience - it's a bit of a cliché but we've got that right at the moment.
"We are lucky that we had a tour to South Africa in February and played on some of the same venues," she added. "We will pick the World Cup squad of 14 players in the autumn from a competitive pool of players."