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Rachel Taylor, Wales

The new appreciation for women’s rugby in Europe stems from the successful Women’s Rugby World Cup that took place in 2014 when France hosted the tournament at the French Rugby Federation complex in Marcoussis, 20-miles south of Paris. The medal games were held at Stade Jean Bouin, a 25,000 seat stadium that was sold out for the final when England defeated Canada 21-9. (N.B. Jean Bouin will welcome the new HSBC World Rugby Paris 7s event May 14 and 15 this year.)

The event produced three memorable outcomes, which generated media coverage around the globe. The first was New Zealand’s failure to advance when Canada and England tied 13-13 in a preliminary round, generating 2-0-1 (7 points) records to the Black Ferns 2-1 (6 points). Second, was the unheralded Irish women’s upset against New Zealand in pool play, a remarkable victory against a side that dominated test match rugby and seemed invincible, The third event was the spectacular, long run try by Canada’s Magali Harvey, a score that made it into the World Rugby Try of the Year award. From this 2014 tournament, women’s rugby – certainly, among the Six Nations sides – engendered greater awareness and also attracted more girls and women playing the game.

Last year’s Six Nations result witnessed Ireland at the top, the second time in three years that the Irish XV won the title.  This year, with many teams fielding young players, the title is up for grabs, and any of the six could emerge as champions.

The schedule follows the same as the Men’s but matches are played at smaller stadiums. Here is the opening round line up:

Day     Date    Home                Away                   Stadium                 Capacity

Friday  2/5       Scotland           England            Broadwood                  7,936

Satur.   2/6       Ireland              Wales              Donneybrook                 6,000

Satur.   2/6       France              Italy                 Marcel Verchere            11,400

Historically, England has dominated the tournament, winning 13 times but no victory since 2012.