Ireland to host Women’s Rugby World Cup in ‘statement of intent’

Running costs of €3.5m expected with funding likely from North but not the State

Irish Rugby ambassador Fiona Coghlan, Ireland Women head coach Tom Tierney,  IRFU chief executive Philip Browne and team captain Niamh Briggs at the announcement that Ireland will host the 2017 tournament. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Irish Rugby ambassador Fiona Coghlan, Ireland Women head coach Tom Tierney, IRFU chief executive Philip Browne and team captain Niamh Briggs at the announcement that Ireland will host the 2017 tournament. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

The Women’s Rugby World Cup is coming to Ireland in August 2017.

The University College Dublin campus, and possibly Donnybrook’s 4G pitch, will host the 12-nation pool stages before a 175km journey to Belfast, where Queen’s university and eventually the Kingspan Stadium will host the semi-finals and final.

The expected cost of running the tournament is €3.5 million, which pales in comparison with previous sporting events on this island, such as the 2003 Special Olympics or 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club.

Still, Ireland captain Niamh Briggs envisages it having a lasting impact on the game in Ireland, which currently offers just 5,000 of the 1.7 million women who play the sport globally.

“England and France both reaped massive rewards from hosting the last two World Cups,” said Briggs, who in March led Ireland to their second Six Nations title in three years.

“They got a massive amount of girls playing rugby a year or two afterwards. For us we’ve got to utilise that to the best of our ability.”

This idea was initially floated during last August’s tournament in the isolated Paris suburb of Marcoussis, where the French rugby centre of excellence is situated. At the time Limerick was mentioned as the host city but the IRFU, as a 32-county sporting body, felt it essential to enter a cross-border bid.

Last year’s tournament shifted into Paris and 12,000 capacity Stade Jean-Bouin for the latter stages. Ireland famously beat favourites New Zealand in the pool stages only to lose their semi-final to eventual champions England.

 

Superior event

The circumstances exist for UCD-Belfast to put on a superior event to Marcoussis-Paris as the campus provides on-site accommodation, in close proximity to Dublin city, before switching to the newly renovated Kingspan Stadium and its 18,196 capacity.

 

Second Captains

The IRFU never sought to host a major rugby tournament until recently revealing their bids in both the men’s (2023) and women’s game.

“It’s a statement of intent on our part,” said IRFU chief executive Philip Browne. “Number one, that we are willing to support world rugby and its international programme. Number two, it shows us as a 32-county sport that is able to operate across the border and operate as a single unit.”

The union will shoulder €1.5 million of the tournament’s total cost with €950,000 coming from governing body World Rugby while the Northern Ireland Assembly have given “strong indications” of additional financial support. However, the Government in the Republic are unlikely to become financially involved.

 

Fáilte Ireland

“This doesn’t fall into the criteria for Fáilte Ireland,” explained Browne.

“It’s not a big enough sporting event to bring a sporting grant in the Republic of Ireland.”

The union’s load should be further offset by sponsors, hence the imminent announcement of a tournament director.

“We have somebody lined up and I hope we can announce him in the next couple of weeks,” said Kevin Potts, the union’s chief operating officer, who is also overseeing the 2023 World Cup bid.

“In the run up to the tournament it will require 78 people, part-time and full-time staff, so our immediate appointment will be a full-time tournament director and about a year out we will start adding to that.

“We have to use our existing resources but we should be able to do that. It will be a partnership with World Rugby.”

Conveniently, World Rugby head offices are based in Dublin.

“At the moment we have strong indications that we will have financial support from the North [the Northern Ireland Assembly],” Potts continued. “We are in discussions with the Government down here also. Remember the Government are funding a big chunk of the Rugby World Cup 2023 bid.”

This tournament, although not comparable due to the vast difference in scale, is a precursor to what the IRFU, and GAA for that matter, hope will result in a successful bid for the men’s World Cup.

 

Aggressive rival

This appears to be a far more challenging task with South Africa guaranteeing an aggressive rival. The 1995 hosts and champions also held the 2010 soccer World Cup and missed out to Japan for 2019.

 

That looks a far more complicated process, which hasn’t even officially begun.

“We can’t get carried away with ourselves,” Briggs added at Wednesday’s announcement.

“We still have to work incredibly hard. We still have two Six Nations campaigns before that. We also have girls trying to qualify for an Olympics. Today is great but if you think that far ahead time will run away from you.”

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