All you need to know ahead of Ireland's Women's Rugby World Cup kick-off

Ireland captain Claire Molloy
Ireland captain Claire Molloy

The 2017 tournament will be the eighth Women’s Rugby World Cup and will mark the first time Ireland has ever hosted the tournament.

Tom Tierney’s side will be looking to improve on their fourth-place finish at the 2014 World Cup and here’s everything you need to know about the tournament.

How were Ireland awarded the tournament?

The IRFU were the only union to bid for the right to host the tournament and were awarded hosting rights by World Rugby in May 2015.

IRFU chief executive Philip Browne welcomed the decision and said that the IRFU planned to make the tournament an exceptional event.

Where are the games on?

The pool games will be played at UCD in Dublin, with the games set to be split between the UCD Bowl and Billings Park, a fenced-off field that has been converted into a 2,000-capacity arena for the tournament.

The knockout stages will take place in Belfast, with Queen’s University and the Kingspan Stadium in Ravenhill set to host the latter stages.

Kingspan, home of Ulster Rugby, will host both semi-finals and the final.

How does it work?

The tournament is comprised of 12 teams in three pools of four, with the pool winners plus the best runner-up progressing to the semi-finals.

Who are the favourites?

Reigning champions England are the favourites to retain their title and enter the tournament having won both the 2016 and 2017 Women’s Six Nations Championships. 

Simon Middleton’s side have 17 players on full-time professional contracts and have qualified for six of the seven Women’s Rugby World Cup Finals.

Next to England are four-time winners New Zealand, who failed to make the semis for the first time in their history at the 2014 World Cup, after losing to Ireland in the pool stages.

The Black Ferns have won four of the last five World Cups and enter the tournament having won 13 of their last 14 internationals, with their only loss coming to England in June.

What are Ireland’s chances?

The women’s team became the first Irish side in history to beat a New Zealand team at the last World Cup, but since then results have been rather mixed.

Ireland lost to England, Canada and New Zealand in the women’s November Internationals Series last year, while they gave a better account of themselves in this year’s Six Nations, finishing in second with four wins from five games.

However, Ireland’s cause was dealt a big blow on Monday when captain and goal-kicker Niamh Briggs was ruled out of the tournament with an Achilles injury.
Claire Molloy will take over as skipper. 

Ireland’s first game is against Australia in UCD on Wednesday (7.0pm)

Ireland SQUAD:

Forwards: Ashleigh Baxter, Anna Caplice, Ciara Cooney, Ailis Egan, Paula Fitzpatrick, Ciara Griffin, Leah Lyons, Claire Molloy, Cliodhna Moloney, Heather O’Brien, Ciara O’Connor, Ruth O’Reilly, Lindsay Peat, Marie-Louise Reilly, Sophie Spence.
Backs: Eimear Considine, Mairead Coyne, Nicole Cronin, Jeamie Deacon, Katie Fitzhenry, Claire McLaughlin, Alison Miller, Larissa Muldoon, Jenny Murphy, Sene Naoupu, Nora Stapleton, Hannah Tyrrell, Louise Galvin.