THOMOND Park would “welcome with open arms” the chance to play host to games in the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2017, according to stadium boss John Cantwell.
Limerick is the favourite city to host the women’s world cup at its next staging, with the tournament currently taking place in France where the Irish team recently stunned New Zealand and are now into the semi-final.
“We have had no formal approach, but it is something that we would welcome with open arms really, recognising the status of the women’s game, and how it is such a popular sport now, especially with such a successful Irish team,” said Mr Cantwell.
“I think it would be tailor made for Limerick and in particular Thomond Park.
“We haven’t received an approach, but we are aware - there is something being mentioned behind the scenes.
“But as of yet, we are waiting with bated breath, because it would be a fantastic event for Limerick to be involved in, and I think it would be wholeheartedly supported by all and sundry,” he added.
Former Grand Slam winner Joy Neville, from the North Circular Road, said the opportunity for her native city to host the next world cup would be “massive for the women’s game” in Ireland.
“I would definitely welcome it and I think we would do a good job of it too, to be honest,” said Joy, speaking from Marcoussis, where the tournament is currently taking place.
“I think it would be great for Limerick city as well.”
The IRB said recently that details of the tender process for the next two world cups would be “announced in due course”.
The next tournament is due to take place in 2017, with the world cup to run every four years after that to “optimise the international competition calendar”.
According to a report in the Irish Times, Limerick is the favourite to host the 2017 event, with Philippe Bourdarias, director of the event, saying: “There have been some conversations. We know them very well. We are based in Dublin but nothing formal has happened yet. But we know there is an interest.”
He added that Ireland “tick a lot of boxes. It depends on the project. If they come with an ambitious project. But I think they would have a strong bid because they have a lot in common with France. We would welcome a bid if they go for it.”
Ms Neville, who attained 70 caps for her country before retiring after ten years last year, said Limerick would compare very favourably with Marcoussis.
“I am over here now and it is where the men’s international team train,” she said. “The grounds are fabulous but there is absolutely nothing around it, or even close it. Whereas in Limerick there are so many amenities and attractions for people to come in.
“Thomond Park would be the ideal venue for the semis and finals. The best grounds, accommodation wise, pitches and facilities would probably be in UL and LIT could be an option as well, along with the clubs.
“For me, women’s rugby has exploded into the national consciousness since the grand slam win. Now that it is on the map and the fact that the girls are doing so well at this world cup, I think that people will really get in behind it and a lot of people will come out to support the girls, that probably wouldn’t have attended a women’s match.
“It can only be brilliant for women’s rugby full stop, and as far as Limerick city is concerned, I think it would be draw so much attention once people come and see it and (they) would be keen to come back.
“As far as I am concerned, I think it would be massive if Limerick won the bid to host the world cup,” she added.