Former Ireland international Rosie Foley believes it will be a difficult task for her country to lift the Women’s World Cup next month, but she is confident that they can go far at this tournament.
The competition gets underway in Ireland in exactly seven days time and it is arguably the biggest sporting event the country has hosted in just over a decade.
In 2014, Ireland created history by beating the four time winners New Zealand to reach the semi-finals and Foley feels that they could be the dark horses in this year’s competition, especially on home turf.
“I would love to see them raising that trophy, but it will be a huge challenge!” Foley told Talking Rugby Union.
Ireland, who are seeded fourth for this tournament behind current World Champions England, New Zealand and Canada, begin their campaign against Australia in Dublin next Wednesday before facing Japan and France.
“Yes, England and New Zealand are in flying form at the moment, but anything can happen and you could find a purple patch at just the right time,” Foley said. “In terms of the pool stages, I think Ireland are favourites to get out of that group, but as I have just said, anything can happen.
“Australia have played something like five XVs games since the last World Cup which isn’t a lot of rugby, but you cannot discount their quality. We also play Japan who we have had a couple of warm-up matches against which have been pretty tight encounters and then you have France.
“It has always been a huge battle between Ireland and France. We have got the better of them this year, but if you look back over the last 20 years or so, one side has never been dominant. Ireland will have to fight to get out of that pool and I think we are in the toughest pool.”
And Ireland will also have to fight without captain Niamh Briggs who was ruled out of the tournament on Monday with an Achilles injury.
The 32-year-old back didn’t feature in the Six Nations after suffering a hamstring injury and will now miss out on the World Cup.
Munster’s Louise Galvin has been named as Briggs’ replacement while Claire Molloy will now be skipper, but Foley believes that the squad will still be focused on the task in hand despite losing an influential figure.
“You do expect the ebbs and flows,” added Foley, who was capped 39 times for her country. “You expect to lose players during a tournament, but sadly we have lost Niamh before the tournament hasn’t even started.
Niamh missed out on the Six Nations, but the squad performed so well and the squad for this World Cup is still strong. It is of course such a big blow to lose a player like Niamh, but the squad, who have been training for a while now, will be ready to go.”
'It is so important to build on this tournament'
After any major sporting event, there is always the question about the long-terms implications of hosting the tournament.
This certainly applies to the Women’s World Cup and the kind of legacy it will leave in Ireland over the next few years and Foley is adamant that the tournament will have a positive effect.
She added: “If we rewind 15 years and you told me we would have a Women’s World Cup with sold out venues, I would have taken it with two hands and ran with it!
“It is so pleasing to see women’s sport continuing to grow and we are sports mad here in Ireland. I am so glad that everyone is getting behind the tournament for all the teams because this is the pinnacle of many players’ careers.
“It is unbelievably important for us to capitalise on this, especially from a female sports point of view. To get people involved in the sport is key.
“In the last year or so, you have seen the media get behind it and that shows as the World Cup will be on RTE, eirSport and ITV which is great. These girls are at the top of their game and if that doesn’t help promote sport in Ireland, I will be surprised.”
Foley is also doing her bit to promote Women’s Rugby in her country as she is part of the team that as set up a legends match between Ireland and England on August 25th at Malone RFC.
England’s squad includes the likes of Susie Appleby, Gill Burns and Catherine Spencer and Foley is really looking forward to the event.
“This is the first time that any teams at international level are going to play against each other in this type of event so it is a huge first,” she added.
“There is huge interest in it. I can’t get over how many people want to be there, want to support and want to play. We have had to cap the numbers because we are running out of jerseys! There is always that rivalry, but we have always had really good craic with our English counterparts and it should be a really good day.”