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Dublin: 1 °C Tuesday 28 January, 2020

Wimbledon-style tickets, single purpose stands and transforming UCD from campus to World Cup

Tournament director Garrett Tubridy is ready to host A tournament small on scale, but overflowing with international flavour.


STANDING IN A quiet green corner of UCD, it quickly becomes clear that the tranquility won’t remain for very long.

On a shaded spot by the trees that line Roebuck Road, which snakes around the outskirts of the university’s playing fields, it was once possible to amble by and watch Joe Schmidt and Jono Gibbes running Leinster training. A stone’s throw away, even closer to the road that comes through UCD from Clonskeagh, Martin Russell would be putting some young talent from one of the College’s age grade football team through their paces.

Schmidt, of course, changed that long before he left the province with two Heineken Cups medals to take charge of the national team. Leinster’s day-to-day training moved behind thick hedges, seclusion you might expect from a team vying to be the best in Europe.

A general view of the game Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Next month, the world’s best women’s teams will be treading the old path Leinster left behind as the World Cup takes up residence in Belfield for the pool stages. The space that once stood idle while Leinster and UCD prepared to take on their respective codes for vastly differing rewards, has now been turned into a World Cup venue.

Any past pupil or regular visitor familiar with the two match venues marked for the WRWC – the Belfield Bowl and Billings Park – will find themselves needing a quick refresher course when they get to campus.

The Bowl, ordinarily limited to just a few hundred seats under one modest stand, will be expanded to squeeze 3,000 rugby fans in as Ireland take on Australia, Japan and France in the pool stages from 9 August. Temporary seating is being erected on three sides on top of the grass verges that look inviting when the sun shines and crowds are sparse, but would have been a nuisance if not a downright hazard when World Cup demand – not to mention an August shower – hit.

“It’s about design, and what’s going to look good on TV,” tournament director Garrett Tubridy tells The42 as he points around the Bowl before alterations began.

“Our primary focus is making sure that spectators are safe for evacuation routes and so forth. It’s about looking after the venue that we have because there’s been so much demand for tickets.”

Much like the Bowl itself, the side opposite the existing covered stand will be a swollen version of its current self. Teams and broadcasters will set up there for each match, maximising the number of supporters squeezed into the frame for an international audience and keeping valuable equipment and personnel out of harm’s way.

The Billings ground meanwhile, is being converted from a fenced-off field to a 2,000-capacity cauldron that will be stirred by the 2014 World Cup finalists England and Canada as well as the once-unbeatable Black Ferns.

“Mirroring the Bowl as much as we can,” notes Tubridy, “but also cutting our cloth because we know there will be more demand for the Bowl because of the Ireland matches. But there’s an opportunity for people to come here, like, New Zealand are playing three matches here, a chance to see the haka live.”

The Ireland team after the game

Though all three matchdays scheduled in the Bowl are sold out, there remains some slender hope for supporters desperate to see Ireland in action. Tubridy calls it a Wimbledon-style scheme that will encourage people who decide to leave early to donate their tickets. The vacant spaces will then be re-sold to people on site eager to access a match with the proceeds going to the IRFU Charitable Trust.

With tickets for the pool stages nearing the sold out mark – though seats in Kingspan Stadium for the knock-out stage remain on sale – there is an argument worth having over why there was not a more ambitious venue choice.

Tubridy expects around 16,000 visitors to Belfield over three matchdays, a lower capacity than the RDS which perhaps could have been twinned with the spacious grounds of Old Belvedere as an alternative.

Ashleigh Baxter and Claire Molloy Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The 6,000-capacity Donnybrook? Another part of a combination that might have worked. Yet ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ are easy at this stage of a lengthy planning process. Taking UCD in its entirety, it’s clear that the opportunity to employ one large World Cup venue capable of housing two pitches and a fan-zone within a five minute walk of one another and fed by a slew of existing bus routes was not to be passed up.

In a tournament where teams play every four days, this is an incredibly player-friendly location. All teams will be housed on-site, 550 people arriving and taking up a single room in apartments of six, they will use the university’s expansive gym, 50 metre swimming pool and those open, marked fields that Leinster once wore down while perfecting Schmidt’s methods, will be on hand for the world’s 12 best women’s rugby teams.

The dozen nations will also be playing on a tightly squeezed matchday schedule of course, meaning a clear plan to divvy up dressing room times was required. The Bowl has its own four changing rooms on site, so can comfortably roll back-to-back contests, while teams like New Zealand fixed for matches in Billings will find their ‘sheds’ within the impressive UCD sports centre.


Wherever you look, you are bound to see a team coming or going, supporters settling in to watch a match that doesn’t even involve their own nation. A roller-coaster of emotions on the field and, with a bit of luck for Tubridy and the people who have paid for their tickets, a carnival off it.

“I expect that around half the people here on matchdays will be international visitors.  The average figure is around 10% in a Six Nations fixture, but with all 12 teams it’s expect to be higher. That’s not accounting for tickets that have been bought in Ireland for overseas fans.. So it’s going to be a very international flavour.”

“We want fans to come in early, We want them to experience and support the other teams. When they come in they’ll be able to come and go freely from the Bowl. There’ll be a fan zone where we’ll have food, a bit of music and games and that sort of thing. For fans to hang out, because the great thing about the world cup is all teams are playing on the one day, so there will be fans from, not just the opposing team’s country, but from all 12.

“The fan zone will have an international feel, fans can expect a full day of activity, world class rugby and to meet people from all over the world who are coming to enjoy the rugby.”

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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