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Dublin: 11 °C Thursday 2 July, 2020

Two weeks to go: A quick guide to how the Women's Rugby World Cup in Ireland will work

All you’ll need to get you through day one in UCD.

THOSE OF YOU who are veterans of Women’s Rugby World Cups (or, to an extent, even Sevens Rugby tournaments) will be familiar with the format and structure of the 18-day jamboree coming our way two weeks from today.

For those of you who aren’t, this won’t take long.

Nora Stapleton, Niamh Briggs and Tom Tierney Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Get the basics right: Pools and points

The Women’s Rugby World Cup consists of 12 teams, separated into three pools of four. The four teams within each pool will play one another for match points over the first three matchdays.

exppool Pool A teams play their fellow Pool A teams ( and so on) to set up the knock-out stages.

‘Match points’ you ask? It’s the same system we know and love from every league-format tournament (even the Six Nations these days): four points for a win, two points for a draw and a bonus point if you score four or more tries in a game. There is also a losing bonus point to be played for. Lose by seven or less, get a point for your efforts. Lose by more than seven, get nothing.

Try-scoring bonus points can be secured in the event of a win, loss or draw. So it’s possible to draw with a team and add three points to your tally. It’s also possible — but rare — to lose and gain two (bonus) points.

No backward steps: Getting to the knock-out stage

At the end of the three intense games in eight short days we know as the pool stage, not only will the teams in each pool of four be ranked by their points tallies, all 12 teams will come into play.

To make the semi-final, Ireland (or your team of choice) must be among the top four performing teams after matchday three.

The tournament does not end for teams outside the top four though. Just as the semi-finalists play off for a place in the final and ultimately the World Cup itself, the teams below the top four will play-off for fifth or ninth – depending how far down the post-pool rankings they finish – until each team is left with a finishing position between one and 12.

Confused? Here’s what happened at the 2014 World Cup


Ireland finished top of Pool B thanks to wins over New Zealand, USA and Kazakhstan. Their 13 points was enough to place them second in the overall seedings for the knock-out stage.

Hosts France were top seeds as they had accrued an extra try-scoring bonus point over their three matches in Pool A. England and Canada finished level on 12 points in Pool A, but England were ranked higher (and won the pool as well as third seeding) by virtue of their superior points differential (points scored minus points conceded).


Teams who are inseparable in terms of match points will first be tie-broken by the result of a match played between the sides. If the teams were not in the same pool, then it will come down to points difference

If points difference is the same, the difference between tries scored and conceded will be used.

Failing that, it’s most points scored. Failing that, the last resort short of a coin toss is most tries scored.

Don’t worry though, points difference is usually enough to get the job done.

Targets: Are Ireland any good? Who is favourite to win the thing?

Leaving aside the justifiable claims from the IRFU that this is the best-prepared Irish women’s rugby team ever, Tom Tierney’s squad are indeed one to be reckoned with.

There will be countless reminders in the fortnight ahead of the 2014 win over the hitherto unbeaten Black Ferns, but while some key players retired after that tournament, 12 are back for another go at the WRWC.

England are almost even-money favourites to retain their title after the professional outfit followed up a Grand Slam by going to New Zealand and beating the Black Ferns during the summer.

The Kiwis are 6/4 to take back the crown they wore through four editions of the tournament from 1998 to 2010.

Behind 12/1 shot Canada (finalists three years ago) you’ll find Ireland at 22/1. The hosts are in a pool with the team ranked immediately above (France) and below them (Australia) in the World Rugby rankings, so progression will not come easy. But with home advantage and some lingering confidence from winning the Six Nations title in 2015, they certainly have what it takes to top the pool.

In position: where do I go to see all this action unfold then?

The Women’s Rugby World Cup will be played out on four fields at three venues from Dublin to Belfast.

The pool stages will all be run off in University College Dublin’s Belfield campus where there are two pitches: Billings Park and the UCD Bowl. Being the larger of the two, the Bowl will host all three of Ireland’s matches in this stage: against Australia (7pm, 9 August), Japan (5.15pm, 13 August) and France (7.45pm, 17 August).

New Zealand, England, Australia, France and Canada will each get a turn in the smaller Billings ground a stone’s throw away.

Ireland team huddle

When the tournament moves to Belfast for the knockout stages from 22 August, matches will be housed either by Kingspan Stadium (semi-finals and fifth v eighth) Queen’s University (10th v 11th, 9th v 12th and 6th v 7th).

If you’re thinking about buying a ticket to go see Ireland’s pool matches you’re already too late (though not for the knockout stages in Belfast), However, if you can’t make it in person, eir Sport will have live coverage of all games, while RTE will broadcast Ireland’s matches on all their platforms.

Go out there and enjoy it.

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Sean Farrell

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