Northern Ireland

Women's Rugby World Cup: Five key facts

Alison Miller of Ireland is tackled by Mayu Shimizu of Japan during the Womens Rugby World Cup 2017 Image copyright Charles McQuillan
Image caption Ireland defeated Japan 24-14 in the group stage of the competition

One of the biggest events in women's sport has been taking place in stadiums across Northern Ireland and the Republic.

But how much do you know about the Women's Rugby World Cup?

Here are five key facts about the competition, which comes to a climax this Saturday at Belfast's Kingspan Stadium.

Retrospective endorsement

This is the first time the Women's Rugby World Cup has been hosted by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU).

The tournament, which is held every three to four years, was established in 1991.

Image copyright Inpho
Image caption All the Pool matches were played in Dublin with the semi-finals and final hosted by Belfast's Kingspan Stadium

However it was not officially recognised by the then governing body - the International Rugby Football Board.

It was eventually given retrospective endorsement by the World Rugby Union in 2009.

This year's event is set to be the biggest tournament yet.

Team stats

Twelve teams have been competing in this year's tournament in the hope of being crowned World Champions.

They have travelled from far and wide to compete, with teams from Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Canada and Australia set to show off their skills.

Each squad is made up of 23 players, 15 of whom take to the pitch to face their rivals.

Image copyright Charles McQuillan
Image caption USA crushed Spain during the pool stages in Dublin

The rules are the same as in men's rugby, and the opening rounds of the tournament were played at Dublin's UCD Bowl and Billings Park, with the play-offs based at Queen's University in Belfast.

Tuesday's semi-finals - in which New Zealand eased past the USA and England defeated France - were played at Belfast's Kingspan Stadium, which also plays host to Saturday's final between England and the Black Ferns at 19:45.

Five other matches on Saturday will decide which teams come in from third to 12th places.

Fast and furious ticket sales

Image caption The final will take place at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast on Saturday

More than 6,000 fans turned out to watch the international sides battle it out in the opening rounds of the competition.

Officials said tickets for the opening matches were fully sold out.

Looking ahead to Saturday's final, the trend has been is continuing, and fans hoping to attend are encouraged to pre-book - although there will be a limited number of tickets on sale at the stadium.

Fans travel far and wide

The teams have been supported by rugby die-hards who have followed them across the globe.

That of course means good news for Northern Ireland's tourism and the economy.

Image copyright Charles McQuillan
Image caption Japan sing their national anthem before the match starts

Tourism NI's Director of Events, Aine Kearney, said the tournament was not only a highlight of the sporting calendar, but also a "key economic driver".

"With 21 matches broadcast to a global audience, it will undoubtedly benefit Northern Ireland," she told BBC News NI.

Rugby's first lady?

While men's rugby has a long-held tradition in Ireland, Ireland also has a claim as the founding land of women's rugby.

In 1887, Emily Valentine became the first female ever recorded to play rugby and score a try during a match at Portora Royal School, in Enniskillen.

She was only 10 years old at the time, and was asked to play alongside her brothers as the team were a man down.

Delighted at her achievement, Emily Valentine wrote a detailed description of her experience in her journal.

Image caption Twelve teams have been battling to bring the World Cup home

"I used to stand on the touchline in the cold damp Enniskillen winter, watching every moment of play, furious when my side muffed a ball, or went offside, bitterly disappointed when a goal was missed," she wrote.

"I knew the rules. At last my chance came. I got the ball - I can still feel the damp leather and the smell of it, and see the tag of lacing at the opening."

"I grasped it and ran dodging and darting, but I was so keen to score that try that I did not pass it, perhaps when I should.

"I still raced on, I could see the boy coming toward me. I dodged, yes I could and breathless, with my heart pumping, my knees shaking, I ran.

"Yes, I had done it; one last spurt and I touched down, right on the line."

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