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Kingspan Stadium could host Women's 2017 World Cup final

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

The IRFU will learn whether their bid to host the 2017 Women's World Cup will be successful in May with England and South Africa weighing up the idea of hosting the tournament.

The union announced their decision to enter the process yesterday, outlining plans to host pool stage games at University College Dublin - with the semi-finals being taken to Queen's University Belfast and the final at Ulster's Kingspan Stadium.

Staging the tournament would cost an estimated £1.8-2.2m with World Rugby contributing a grant of £690,000 to the hosts who would have to make up the remaining balance.

The IRFU are in discussions with governments north and south of the border and hope to offset some of the cost with sponsorship. They also hope that a successful staging of the 12-team event will help show their capabilities to the organisation formerly known as the IRB ahead of the decision to host the Men's World Cup in 2023.

Ireland reached the semi-finals of last year's World Cup which was held in Paris. The pool stages of that tournament were held at the FFR's Marcoussis campus, before Stade Francais' Stade Jean-Bouin hosted the play-offs.

Ireland, skippered by Niamh Briggs, claimed only their second ever victory over England last Friday in the Six Nations.

All of the teams would stay on campus at UCD during the tournament, while games would be played at the UCD Bowl and another pitch. However, union chief executive Philip Brown suggested demand for tickets could see pool games moved to Donnybrook.

The Aviva Stadium was considered too big, while the RDS will be in use for the Dublin Horse Show so the knockout games will be moved to Northern Ireland.

Brown said the bid was the latest example of the union's backing for the women's game.

"It's a big commitment and we made a commitment in 2008 when the women's union amalgamated with the IRFU and we've had an ambitious strategic plan since then," he said.

"We had 500 players in 2003 and there are 4,000 today; there is a vibrant adult game and underage women's rugby is growing thanks, in part, to our senior women's team's success in recent years and investment."

Brown conceded that Friday's win over England is likely to be the women's team's last at Ashbourne RFC with a move to Donnybrook likely next season. He paid tribute to the Meath club, but said interest in the team would necessitate a bigger venue.

Meanwhile, World Rugby yesterday unveiled the 12 cities across Japan which will host games at the 2019 men's World Cup. The final is likely to be held in Tokyo's new National Stadium.

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