Initially mooted for the University of Limerick and Thomond Park, the IRFU have entered an all-Ireland bid for the 2017 Women's World Cup to be hosted by UCD before the knockout stages move to Belfast.
Indications from within World Rugby appear to make Ireland favourites to see off interest from England and South Africa.
"Having consulted, as part and parcel of the process, with World Rugby their preference was to host in the capital," said IRFU chief executive Philip Browne. "I think World Rugby are keen to see it move around to other countries so if our bid stands up technically and every other way I think we will be in with a fairly good chance of success."
The bid, headed up by chief operating officer Kevin Potts, follows the usual formula for the women’s tournament by shifting from a multipitch venue (UCD campus) to a larger stadium for the final stages.
Kingspan Stadium (formerly Ravenhill) and its 18,196 capacity would host the semi-finals, third place play-off and final with Queen’s University Belfast providing pitches for the lower seeding deciders.
Hosting the event will cost about €2.85 million with €950,000 coming from World Rugby. The IRFU hope to receive financial assistance from both the Republic and Northern Ireland Governments.
“We hope to offset that with some sponsorships and value-in-kind arrangements and are talking to Governments both North and South to see how much support they can give,” Browne said.
Major pool matches would take place in the Belfield Bowl, which holds 3,000 (1,500 seating), with other games on the all-weather pitch regularly used by Leinster. Donnybrook’s 4G surface is an option.
All squads could be accommodated on the Belfield campus.
With the island of Ireland also seeking to host the men’s World Cup in 2023, Browne said the cross-Border venues was an initial chance to showcase this agreement, albeit on a much smaller scale.
“We want to be able to show World Rugby we can manage an event across the border in the context of 2023 bid and that we represent rugby across the entire island. So it seems to be an excellent idea to bring the cream of women’s rugby not only to Dublin but also to Belfast.
“The key motivating factor here has always been the women’s game. What the team have done has been very significant in terms of promoting the sport. At the end of the day that needs to be recognised. If we want to grow women’s rugby this is a fantastic opportunity to do so.”
The confidential tender process is now closed but rival bids are believed to have come from England and South Africa. The host union will be announced in May.
“The development and profile of women’s sport have been fantastic in recent years and it will be a great opportunity for Ireland to get more women and girls to consider taking up a team sport,” said Fiona Coghlan, who led Ireland to the 2013 Grand Slam and last year’s World Cup semi-final.
Six Nations stadiums
Browne also confirmed the women’s move away from a rugby club venue to a stadium by the 2016 Six Nations.
“Donnybrook is obviously one option. What’s key is we get reasonable level of support for them and obviously reasonable facilities,” he said. “We will be looking at where the under-20s go as well. They were pleased with how Donnybrook worked for them last Friday as they were able to play top of the ground rugby.”
Musgrave Park in Cork, Belfast and the Sportsground were also mentioned.