The International Rugby Board has reaffirmed its commitment to growing the Women's Rugby World Cup brand with the approval of a three-point plan to ensure the flagship event continues to grow and inspire the next generation of female players.
The approval of the plan by the IRB Council follows an extensive strategic review of the Women's Rugby World Cup by tournament owners Rugby World Cup Limited.
Key review considerations included tournament timing within the international Women's rugby calendar, the tournament delivery model, tournament format and the global qualification criteria with the objective of further boosting competition standards, global profile and fan engagement.
The following recommendations were agreed by the Council:
• The Women's Rugby World Cup to move to every four years from 2017 to optimise the international competition calendar and enable the world's top players to compete in the pinnacle fifteen-a-side and Sevens events
• The Women's Rugby World Cup to be capped at 12 teams to ensure the highest competition standards
• The global qualification process to be streamlined to ensure the participation of the world's best teams on the world's biggest stage
The announcement comes at an exciting time for the sport with Women's rugby enjoying unprecedented growth and profile, the Women's Rugby World Cup set for a record-breaking France 2014 event, the IRB Women's Sevens Series going from strength to strength and Women's Sevens set to debut at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
RWCL Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "Women's rugby is one of the world's fastest growing team sports with an unprecedented 1.5 million women and girls participating across every continent.
"At the forefront of the phenomenal growth are our flagship Women's fifteen-a-side and Sevens events and we are committed to ensuring that the Women's Rugby World Cup is cemented as one of the prestige properties in women's sport."
Details of the qualification process and tender process for the 2017 and 2021 Women's Rugby World Cup tournaments will be announced in due course.
IRB Rugby Committee member Cheryl Soon added: "The Women's Rugby World Cup is a fantastic event and today's announcement is great news for the game.
"It's a long-term commitment to the Women's game, which is growing at a record speed. To enhance that, we need to support the development of the game and get the schedule right.
"This will allow the top players compete in the Olympics, the Women's Rugby World Cup and then the Rugby World Cup Sevens, if they choose to. The top players can take part in the top events."
Meanwhile, excitement is building as teams get set for the 2014 Women's Rugby World Cup in Paris this August.
The action gets underway at FFR headquarters in Marcoussis, Paris on August 1, with the other pool games played there on August 5 and 9. The semi-finals and finals will be played at Stade Jean Bouin on August 13 and 17 respectively.
The IRFU have announced the fixtures for the forthcoming Ulster Bank League season and following on from the success of last year's 'Friday Night Lights' games, the evening kick-offs continue and Division 1A sees the return of semi-finals and a final for the 2014/15 campaign.
More than 400 boys and girls from 20 teams took part in the Aviva Mini Rugby Festival and enjoyed a chance to 'play where their heroes play'. We hear from the IRFU's Hendrik Kruger and former Ireland international David Wallace, as well as Aviva's Eoin O'Neill and some of the club coaches involved.
Old Belvedere moved to the top of Ulster Bank League Division 1A as full-back Josh Glynn booted them to a 21-15 victory over Dolphin. Their home win came a day after title rivals Clontarf lost to Lansdowne, setting up a fascinating final round next Saturday.
The top two teams in Division 1A of the Ulster Bank League - Clontarf and Old Belvedere - played out a high quality 'Friday Night Lights' encounter in front of a large Castle Avenue crowd. Irish Rugby TV brings you the best of the action.
Tries from man-of-the-match Daniel Riordan, captain Gerry Hurley and replacement Declan Lavery inspired the Ireland Club team to a 28-3 victory over their Scottish counterparts in the Ulster Bank Club International match. Check out this recap of the annual Dalriada Cup clash.
Number 8 Sean Wall captained Enniscorthy to Ulster Bank All-Ireland Junior Cup glory on Saturday as they got the better of Clogher Valley on a 10-9 scoreline. He was interviewed by Knockon.ie's Rob Murphy afterwards.
Scrum half Evan Lett scored the only try of the game as Enniscorthy won the Ulster Bank All-Ireland Junior Cup title for the first time, beating Clogher Valley 10-9 in a tight decider. He spoke to Knockon.ie's Rob Murphy afterwards.
Clogher Valley's joint head coach David Black reflected on his side's 10-9 Ulster Bank All-Ireland Junior Cup final loss to Enniscorthy. Despite the disappointment, he said it was 'a big achievement for such a small club' to reach the decider.
Out-half David Joyce wrapped up Clontarf's latest win in the Ulster Bank League, scoring the closing try and 16 points in total as they beat Young Munster 26-9 at Tom Clifford Park. Check out highlights of Saturday's game on Irish Rugby TV.
UCD qualified for the Ulster Bank Bateman All-Ireland Cup final with a hard-earned 21-20 semi-final win over Galwegians. The Irish Rugby TV cameras were at Belfield on Saturday to catch the best of the action.
Defending champions Lansdowne entered the Christmas break as the third-placed team in Ulster Bank League Division 1A following a nine-try 61-11 thrashing of Dolphin on the Aviva Stadium's back pitch. Check out the highlights on Irish Rugby TV.
The IRFU have launched a new concussion guide which outlines four simple, important messages: Stop - Inform - Rest - Return. Irish Rugby TV spoke to IRFU Head of Medical Services, Dr. Rod McLoughlin, IRUPA Operations Manager Simon Keogh and IRFU international referee John Lacey about the guide - further information is available at http://www.irishrugby.ie/news/30281.php.
Out-half Craig Ronaldson, who has made a successful transition from Ulster Bank League rugby with Lansdowne to a professional contract with Connacht, talks about the step up to this level of rugby, the importance of the league in providing game-time and a shop window for players and he also previews the province's back-to-back clashes with Toulouse.
The Irish Rugby TV cameras recorded today's much-anticipated 'Your Club, Your Country' Grand Prize Draw, with the 2013 winners drawn by IRFU President Pat Fitzgerald. Lionel Mahon from Ulster Bank and independent auditor Aidan Connaughton from Grant Thornton were also present for the draw which was hosted by the IRFU's Barry Cunningham.
Watch highlights of Ballynahinch's clash with Garryowen in Ulster Bank League Division 1A, as tries from Ross Adair and Aaron Ferris guided Hinch to their first win of the campaign at Ballymacarn Park.