Women's Rugby World Cup can be record-breaking, says World Rugby's Bill Beaumont

Women's World Cup captains
The Women's Rugby World Cup is being staged for the eighth time
Women's Rugby World Cup
Venues: Dublin and Belfast Dates: 9-26 August
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, Radio Ulster medium wave and text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.

The Women's Rugby World Cup starts on Wednesday with World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont expecting a "record-breaking" tournament.

Twelve nations will compete for the trophy, including hosts Ireland, defending champions England and Wales.

The pool matches in Dublin are sold out, with the semi-finals and final taking place at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast.

"The excitement across Ireland and beyond is phenomenal," said Beaumont.

"It all points to what will be a defining, record-breaking Rugby World Cup."

World Rugby, the game's governing body, has suggested that this tournament could be "the most competitive, best attended, most watched, and most socially engaged women's rugby event to date".

England - the only professional outfit, although their contracts expire after the tournament ends - are both the World Cup holders and the current world number ones.

Captain Sarah Hunter, who was part of the winning Red Roses team in 2014, said: "We are immensely proud of what we achieved then, but we are with a new squad now and it is very much about being one of 12 teams who are here to win a competition - not retain a trophy."

Which of the home nations qualified?

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Captain Carys Phillips says Wales are unfazed by being drawn with second and third seeds New Zealand and Canada in the Women's Rugby World Cup.

Champions England start their defence against Spain on Wednesday (kick-off 14:00 BST), and will go on to face Italy and USA in Pool B.

Twelve players will be making their World Cup debuts in the opening match, while head coach Simon Middleton has left 392 caps on his bench, and big names Natasha Hunt and Marlie Packer miss out on the 23 altogether.

Wales have been handed a very tough draw in a group with world numbers two and three, New Zealand and Canada, along with debutants Hong Kong.

Carys Phillips captains the Welsh in their opener against New Zealand (14:45 BST), while 18-year-old India Berbillion has replaced Rebecca De Filippo in the squad after the centre was ruled out with a foot injury.

Hosts Ireland - semi-finalists in 2014 - have suffered a major injury blow with captain Niamh Briggs being ruled out of the tournament through injury.

Flanker Claire Molloy will lead out the team against Australia in their first Pool C match (19:00 BST) before matches against France and Japan.

Analysis - 'England will be the hunted team'

Sara Orchard, BBC Radio 5 live commentator

England are currently on top of the world and they have done it in quite impressive fashion.

They will be the hunted team - everyone will want to knock them off their perch.

There are definitely teams out there who can compete. France, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand play good rugby - they are all top-level teams.

If anyone dares say that women can't kick a rugby ball, I think you'll be very shocked when you watch this tournament. It is fierce, it is ferocious and I'm delighted to say I won't be on the field of play taking them on.

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Ireland will 'embrace and cherish' home advantage - injured captain Briggs

Stats

1: Hong Kong are making their first appearance in the Women's Rugby World Cup

4: The nations who have reached the final - USA, England, New Zealand and Canada

15: Italy and Japan return to the World Cup after a 15-year absence

134: New Zealand hold the record for the most points scored in a World Cup match. They beat Germany 134-6 in 1998.

1,227: The number of points New Zealand have amassed in their World Cup history. Only England and the USA join them in breaking the 1,000 point barrier.

What the coaches say

Ireland head coach Tom Tierney: "The Australians are a good team and we will have to be very good for the opening game.

"However, this is a home World Cup and we're confident that the crowd will get behind us, which will be an added benefit for us, and we're all looking forward to getting the tournament under way."

England head coach Simon Middleton: "We are really happy with the way our tournament preparation has gone and the squad have worked really hard over the past number of months. Now it's about translating that hard work and preparation and delivering performance on the pitch."

Wales coach Rowland Phillips: "We're hoping to do Wales proud. We've set out a path to take women's rugby in Wales to new heights, and while that goes well beyond New Zealand, the Black Ferns are an excellent team to test yourself against."

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