With less than a year to go until Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 kicks off in Ireland, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) have confirm three programmes which will raise the profile of women's rugby in Ireland before, during and after the tournament.
The Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 Trophy Tour will commence on 17 March and will visit every one of Ireland's 32 counties as part of its journey to the final at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast on 26 August.
The IRFU and World Rugby recognise the importance of the rugby club in every town, village and city. To acknowledge this, clubs are invited to apply to host the trophy as it travels across the country. Events can be built around the visit of the trophy to ensure the entire club and wider community get on board. It's not every day that an international trophy rolls into town and it will be a wonderful opportunity to celebrate rugby at a local level.
Schools are also being encouraged to apply to host the WRWC 2017 trophy. It may be an opportunity to link with a local club, maybe one of the Irish women's players is a past pupil or perhaps the school has just started playing rugby and want to encourage students to get involved.
For clubs and schools interested in hosting the WRWC 2017 trophy, apply via www.irfu.ie/ireland2017.
All events need their champions and Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 is no different. There are already enthusiasts across the country who are hugely excited about the competition coming to Ireland and there are numerous ways in which they can help to spread the word about women's rugby and the tournament.
Some areas where these ambassadors can help out include:
- Using social media to help promote WRWC 2017, engaging with IRFU and World Rugby social media channels and using the hashtag #BringIt and #WRWC2017
- Become the information point for their club or school for everything to do with WRWC 2017, e.g. receive posters from the IRFU promoting the WRWC 2017 to hang up in your community, check in with IRFU or branch personnel around any queries
- Look to set up a minis, girls or women's rugby team in their local club or school
- Organise a group to attend the women's international matches in November and also the Six Nations matches in February-March and Women's Rugby World Cup next August.
There will be an awards system for ambassadors to say 'thank you' for getting on board, depending on their commitment and contribution over the course of the season. Rewards such as official ambassador kit and tickets to Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 are up for grabs.
The IRFU and local branches will be on hand to offer support and guidance to all involved and individuals who are interested in becoming an official WRWC 2017 Ambassador are invited to apply at www.irfu.ie/ireland2017.
The IRFU has set a target of 2,017 new female registrations across Ireland in the year 2017. That's on top of the thousands of women and girls who already play the game on the island. With that in mind, a number of initiatives have been launched to encourage more females to take up the sport.
The push behind achieving this target has already begun with the re-branding and re-launch of the IRFU initiative, 'Give it a Try'. Through a series of videos, all females, young and old, are being encouraged to give rugby a try at their local club. Visit www.irishrugby.ie/giveitatry for more information.
There will also be 'Give it a Try' Club Hubs popping up across the country during the summer of 2017.
Kicking off in September this year, all schools are encouraged to sign up to the IRFU GirlsX7s programme. Local branches are on hand to offer support to teachers who would like to introduce their players to the game of GirlsX7s.
This game is played across half a pitch (X = cross) with seven players on each team. Players learn the basics of rugby including catch/pass, tackle, ruck contact area, lineout and scrum set-up.
A series of provincial Girlsx7s tournaments will take place across the country in September-October 2016. Regional/provincial tournaments will be run by Provincial Development Officers with teams progressing through to an IRFU National GirlsX7s in Dublin in November. The tournament will run again in September 2017 with schools being able to register before they break up in June 2017.
"The excitement has started to build ahead of Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 next August as tickets are now on sale for the finals and the rugby season is kicking off in clubs and schools across the country," said Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 Ambassador and former Ireland captain Fiona Coghlan.
"The IMPACT Beyond programme is going to be brilliant in helping to promote Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 and to develop and build the game of women's rugby across the island of Ireland.
"The Trophy Tour is a great way for clubs and schools to celebrate the competition, as well as getting the chance to host such an esteemed trophy. The ambassador programme is also a fantastic way for individuals to help make the competition a success and the 2,017 in 2017 is a great plan to help get more females playing the game of rugby."