In less than 24 hours’ time Australian rugby could be delivered a “bonfire” boost for women’s rugby that will be felt for years to come.
Australia will find out on Thursday morning (AEDT) whether they will host the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup, bidding against New Zealand for the honours.
It’s the most competitive race for the tournament in history, with most past competitions generally only having one country bidding.
Australia’s bid centres around Newcastle and the Hunter region with players to be based in the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley and the final to be hosted at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Rugby AU head of women’s rugby Jilly Collins will be presenting at the final meeting in Dublin, along with Rugby AU CEO Raelene Castle and chairman Cameron Clyne, their final chance to convince the voting unions of Australia’s merits.
The 42-member Rugby World Cup council will vote immediately after the presentations, with the winner requiring 22 votes to secure the win after Australia and New Zealand’s three votes are removed from the council.
The announcement of their intention to bid just under a year ago was the start of a significant 12 months for women’s rugby in Australia and administrators are hoping it will finish on a high in Dublin.
Collins said the result of Thursday’s vote, whichever way it went, wouldn’t change Australia’s commitment to women’s XVs but winning a Women's Rugby World Cup could “light a bonfire” under the format.
“I think for me it doesn't change our plans for what we want to do in the XVs space but what it does is almost lights a bonfire underneath everything, ignites everything,” she said.
“It's a really nice focal point of conversations inspiring young girls, the media surrounding it.
“Everything makes it - it would just be more of a big deal, it just makes everything happen quickly, it makes all those commercial conversations easier and broadcast conversations easier.
“It doesn't change what we do it just helps in every respect of what we're doing.”
Collins said the support from the public had been positive and she was still receiving messages of support with the bid looming.
“I’ve had so much correspondence from Australia saying, “Good luck I really hope we get it, it would mean the world to me.
“I've had parents with daughters just starting playing rugby contact me saying it would be amazing for my daughter to see it on home shores.
“There's a really nice feel that it would be great for the women's game but actually for rugby in general over the next few years to have that.”
The 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup shapes as the most competitive in recent years with World Rugby pushing all unions to invest more in the XVs format of the game.
This year’s November internationals have featured more women’s Tests than ever before - South Africa’s women played their first Test in four years when they took on Wales last weekend - and there is a push to continue increasing those numbers.
Australia has already announced two 2019 Tests against the Black ferns and plans for more are well advanced.
Both Australia and New Zealand are also set to be part of the Oceania women's XVs tournament in future years with the competition, kicking off this weekend, becoming an annual tournament.
An increased Wallaroos presence in the Test calendar is seen as the best way for the team to improve and more matches on home soil would be pivotal to growing the passion for women’s XVs at all levels, Collins said.
“I've had a 20-year involvement in women's rugby. i think the potential for Australia - we've held our own at women's XVs world cups over the years and I just think it's going to get stronger and for me success isn't just about the Wallaroos being the most competitive they can be at the World Cup,” she said.
“It's actually having local opportunities where they can play the format of rugby they want, whether that's Sevens, whether that's XVs, whether that's touch Sevens and having really healthy clubs that embrace women's and girls' rugby as well as men's and boys' rugby.
“Having a Women's Rugby World Cup on home soil can achieve all of that alongside a plan for women's rugby that we want to deliver.”
The Women’s Rugby World Cup host is expected to be announced early on Thursday morning Australian time.