The pinnacle of the Women's Game, the 2010 edition will be the sixth Women's Rugby World Cup with the first having been held in the Welsh capital of Cardiff back in April 1991.
The success of the inaugural tournament laid the foundations for the future and proved the viability of an international competition, from which the Women's Rugby World Cup has continued to grow to the present day.
Twelve teams contested that first tournament in Cardiff from 6-14 April in hosts Wales, Canada, England, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, USA and the USSR.
England and USA booked their places in the inaugural final by shutting out France and New Zealand respectively, with the women from North America getting their hands on the silverware with a 19-6 victory.
Three years later the teams converged on Edinburgh with Kazakhstan and Ireland making their first appearances on the Women's Rugby World Cup stage. The competition threw up some interesting results, but it was clear from early on that defending champions USA and England were the sides to beat.
Both sides cruised through to the final again, although this time England exacted revenge for their 1991 defeat, producing a superb performance to triumph 38-23 in a hugely entertaining contest to determine the champions.
New Zealand return in style
By the time 1998 came around, the first tournament officially under the auspices of the International Rugby Board, in Amsterdam, it was apparent that the returning New Zealand side, led by their inspirational captain Farah Palmer, would be the main side to challenge the previous champions.
With a field extended to 16 teams, the tournament produced some compelling rugby with New Zealand, England, USA and Canada living up to their billing as title contenders by reaching the semi finals.
Defending champions England ruthlessly swept aside Sweden, Canada and Australia to set up the semi final everyone wanted to see against New Zealand, the Black Ferns having been equally impressive in beating newcomers Germany - by a WRWC record 134-6 - along with Scotland and Spain.
The other semi final was an all North American affair, Canada having recovered from that loss to England to beat France 25-7 in the quarter finals to face 1991 champions USA, the 25-10 conquerors of Scotland in the last eight.
Palmer's side had been expected to reach the final, but the manner of their victory was surprising, the Black Ferns ending England's reign as champions with an emphatic 44-11 triumph to signify the beginning of their dominance on the international stage. USA were equally impressive in their own semi final, dispatching Canada 46-6.
However, despite playing in their third successive final, the USA women were powerless to stop the Black Ferns claiming a first title with Vanessa Cootes grabbing the headlines by running in four of New Zealand's eight tries in a 44-12 victory.
Women's Rugby World Cup 2002 held in Spain is regarded as a watershed in the short history of the Women's Game. The final between New Zealand and England set new standards of excellence in terms of skill, fitness and comprehension, firmly placing the Women's Game on the map.
Samoa made their debut on the WRWC stage and enjoyed a dream first match, beating Ireland 22-0 in Santboiana, but from the opening round where New Zealand crushed Germany 117-0 and England brushed aside Italy 63-9 they again seemed destined for another head to head in the final.
The mouth-watering final duly arrived and neither side disappointed, producing not just a good women's match, but an excellent display of rugby by anyone's standards, a fabulous mix of tactical awareness, gritty forward play and attacking rugby.
The Olympic Stadium in Barcelona was a fitting backdrop for a
final which was screened live in the middle of the night back in
New Zealand, not to mention witnessed by an 8,000 crowd in the
stands. The Black Ferns were worthy winners, tries either side of
half time from Monique Hirovanaa and Cheryl Waaka taking them out
to a lead that England were never able to rein in, losing 19-9.
The Black Ferns celebrate a third successive Women's Rugby World Cup title
In 2006, the Women's Rugby World Cup broke new ground with Canada becoming the first non-European nation to host the pinnacle tournament in the Women's Game, one which saw South Africa grace the stage for the first time. The first African nation to compete in the tournament, South Africa were on the end of some heavy losses, but will have learned plenty from the experience.
One thing evident was that the bar had been raised yet again from 2002, the winning margins on the whole generally smaller with sides more competitive. However, it was the usual suspects who would contest the semi finals once more with New Zealand determined to retain their stranglehold on the trophy, England eager to avenge their 2002 final loss and France and Canada targeting a first ever title showdown.
A try by Amiria Marsh in the first minute was an ominous warning sign for France of the Black Ferns' intent and five tries later a 40-10 victory had been secured in Edmonton. England had a tougher task to reach a fourth final against the hosts Canada, two tries from Charlotte Barras ultimately seeing the former champions secure a tight 20-13 victory.
England immediately took the game to the defending champions, but tries from Monalisa Codling and Stephanie Mortimer edged the Black Ferns into a lead before a period of sustained pressure was rewarded with a penalty try to leave the champions with only a 15-10 advantage.
The score remained that way for a while before Victoria Heighway and Helen Clayton traded tries to cut the deficit to just three points with only as many minutes remaining. There was to be no fairytale comeback for England, Marsh easing any nerves with another try to extend the Black Ferns run to 14 victories in a row on the WRWC stage and send captain Palmer off into retirement in style.
With playing numbers continuing to grow and the likes of Australia now warranting a mention among the list of genuine title contenders as they bid to unite the Sevens and 15-a-side world crowns for the first time ever, England 2010 promises to be the most competitive Women's Rugby World Cup to date.
WOMEN'S RUGBY WORLD CUP FINALS AND PLACINGS
1991 - Cardiff, Wales
Final: USA 19-6 England
FEATURE: KATHY FLORES LOOKS BACK ON USA'S 1991 SUCCESS
1994 - Edinburgh, Scotland
Final: England 38-23 USA
FEATURE: GILL BURNS LOOKS BACK ON ENGLAND'S 1994 SUCCESS
1998 - Amsterdam, Netherlands
Final: New Zealand 44-12 USA
FEATURE: FARAH PALMER RECALLS THE FIRST OF HER THREE WINS
3rd/4th: England 85-15 Canada
5th/6th (Plate Final): Australia 25-15 Scotland
7th/8th: Spain 22-9 France
9th/10th (Bowl Final): Ireland 10-26 Kazakhstan
11th/12th: Italy 10-12 Wales
13th/14th (Shield Final): Netherlands 67-3 Germany
15th/16th: Russia 3-23 Sweden
2002 - Barcelona, Spain
Final: New Zealand 19-9 England
3rd/4th: France 41-7 Canada
5th/6th: Australia 30-0 Scotland
7th/8th: USA 23-0 Spain
9th/10th: Samoa 17-14 Wales
11th/12th: Kazakhstan 20-3 Italy
13th/14th: Ireland 23-3 Japan
15th/16th: Netherlands 20-19 Germany
2006 - Edmonton, Canada
Final: New Zealand 25-17 England
FEATURE: FARAH PALMER LOOKS BACK AT HER OTHER TWO
3rd/4th: France 17-8 Canada
5th/6th: Scotland 0-24 USA
7th/8th: Ireland 14-18 Australia
9th/10th: Samoa 5-10 Spain
11th/12th: South Africa 0-36 Kazakhstan
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