Paul Rouse charts the history of women's rugby in Ireland

The Women's Rugby World Cup takes place this month

Paul Rouse charts the history of women's rugby in Ireland

Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Ireland will host the Women's Rugby World Cup later this month with games due to be held in Dublin and Belfast.

The Irish team have enjoyed remarkable success in recent years, including the first ever win by an Irish side over New Zealand at the last World Cup.

However, the opportunity for women to play rugby in Ireland wasn't readily available until relatively recently. 

Professor Paul Rouse from UCD joined Saturday's Off the Ball to chart the history of the game in Ireland and speaking to Nathan Murphy, he said: "The first women's rugby match played by Ireland was played on Valetine's Day in 1993 when they played Scotland in Edinburgh and when you consider that the first Irish men's rugby team played in 1875 - it is an incredible, almost 125 years of a wait.

"So one match was played in 1993 and slowly and incrementally in the years '94 and '95, it began to gather a small bit of momentum. 

"It's very interesting when you go back through the history pages or go back through the sports pages of the newspapers - you cannot find any examples of women playing rugby or practically none - they're in the margins. 

"Soccer and Gaelic football were much later. Gaelic football was 1970s and soccer from the '80s when they really get going but I suppose there were other games for women: hockey and camogie, that was how the sporting world was constructed.

The Virginia RFC team with Ireland rugby captain Niamh Briggs. Image: ©INPHO/Gary Carr

"But, games such as rugby, were not perceived to be for women. I mean, there are examples of women playing on men's teams surreptitiously so a woman...dressed up as a man and played a game for a school team in the late 19th century but if you look at the modern development of rugby - it began to push through in the 1980s, in particular in universities actually.

"By the time we got to the early '90s, there was the establishment of the Irish Women's Football Union with about 200 players set across 10 teams," he added. 

The full discussion can be heard here: