Since the pool draws for the Women’s Rugby World Cup where made, all participating teams have been plotting and planning to bring their ‘A-game’ to Ireland.
In particular they will have been targeting crucial matches in their respective groups to lay down a marker, top their pool and get a favourable draw with a kinder pathway to glory.
Here is a Pool-by-Pool preview of the up-coming Women’s Rugby World Cup…
Canada, New Zealand, Wales, Hong Kong
Four-time winners New Zealand are heavy favourites to win the group and progress through to the semi-final stages, having surprisingly missed out and finished fifth in 2014.
The 2014 runners-up Canada will compete with the Black Ferns for top spot in Pool A as they square off with each other in the final group game.
Wales are first up for the Kiwis, but will see their second match against the Canucks as a more realistic fixture to shock and snatch second place in the group.
Tournament newcomers Hong Kong will be making their Women’s World Cup bow, but are not expected to compete with the other teams in Pool A.
Predicted Finishing Positions: 1. New Zealand 2. Canada 3. Wales 4. Hong Kong
England, United States, Italy, Spain
Reigning champions England are strongly fancied to top their group and qualify for the knockout stages as they look to defend their title in Ireland.
United States will provide the Red Rose with their stiffest test when they lock horns in the final group game to decide who likely comes first and second in Pool B.
Spain, however, are hoping to challenge the US for second place in the table and make the last eight for the first time since hosting the competition in 2002.
Likewise Italy will be targeting possible victory against the Americans or Spanish as they embark on their first World Cup outing in 15 years.
Predicted Finishing Positions: 1. England 2. United States 3. Spain 4. Italy
France, Ireland, Australia, Japan
The pressure is on host nation Ireland as they are tasked with trying to finish ahead of two countries they have never beaten before at a Women’s Rugby World Cup.
One of those is familiar foes France, who hosted the 2014 tournament and have beaten the Irish in all three previous competition meetings. They play the hosts in the final group game.
The other is Australia, who face the French for a fourth successive World Cup and fifth time in total. The Aussies and Irish kick-off the group’s opening match.
Japan make up Pool C, but are not expected to contest with the three heavyweights in the ‘Group of Death’.
Predicted Finishing Positions: 1. Ireland 2. France 3. Australia 4. Japan
By Aron Hegarty