Whilst the men's World Cup - currently taking place - is in its 15th edition after first taking place in 1954, this year's Women's World Cup - which starts this week - will be its fifth. Since the Women & Girls Rugby League - the international governing body of women's rugby league - was established in 2000 and in conjunction with the first Women's Rugby League World Cup, female participation and general interest in the sport has seen an ever-growing increase in a very short space of time.

Domestic scale

The Rugby Football League (British Rugby League's governing body) released a statistic this year which stated that 93% of the 95,000 whom play the sport are male.

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As such, with the RFL's aim to grow the female side of the game and offer greater opportunities for women that do want to play the sport, many of the men's Super League and lower league sides have illustrated their desire to launch a female side also.

2017 saw the first ever women's Super League competition takes place with Bradford Bulls - also the winners of this year's Challenge Cup and who sported a 100% record throughout the whole campaign - victorious against local rivals Featherstone Rovers in the Grand Final. And, recently, there has been an influx of men's Super League teams entering the female fray. In July 2016, Wakefield Trinity became the first Super League club to announce that they would be launching a women's team to join the then-named Women's Premier League. Castleford Tigers, whose recent signing Garry Lo has lit up the men's World Cup for PNG so far, and Hull FC followed suit in September 2016 and all three competed in the inaugural Super League this year.

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Meanwhile, Widnes Vikings, Wigan Warriors and, the most recent, Leeds Rhinos have all outlined their ambition to join the women's Super League for 2018 and beyond.

Firstly, Widnes, ­in partnership with the Vikings Sports Foundation, is spearheading plans to encourage increased engagement in the game by delivering innovative programmes that support girls as young as seven to participate in the sport.

Wigan, likewise followed, releasing news of a female team whom will be coached by the only level three female Rugby League coach, Amanda Wilkinson. The club - like Widnes - have also spoken of their desire to have an open-age side with the hope of developing a youth development structure in the future: a key facet to building and maintaining interest in the sport

Gary Hetherington, meanwhile, the Leeds Rhinos' Chief Executive, when revealing that Leeds will have a women's team, stated that some of their fixtures will feature as the curtain raiser game ahead of Leeds Rhinos' Super League fixtures at Headingley Carnegie.

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Undoubtedly, this will raise the profile of the female game to new heights, giving the female side vital exposure that can only enhance interest in the Leeds area. Even more importantly, the Leeds Rhinos Women will also be aiming to add an Under-19s side to the programme to keep more young girls, who drop off at the 16+ mark, engaged in Rugby League. And, in an attempt to delve deeper into society, the Leeds Rhinos Foundation will deliver coaching workshops with over 1,500 girls.

In any sport, and for obvious reasons, the earlier a girl becomes involved in Rugby League, the more likely they are to continue that interest into their adult years. The grassroots is where the women's game needs to infiltrate and, with a number of high-profile Super League clubs seemingly devoting their time, effort and money to help expand the women's game, the possibility for success is very much alive.

Australian progress

Australia is perhaps the frontrunner for female involvement and interest. Statistics showed that, in 2016, there were over 482,000 girls and women involved in playing the game (touch, tag or tackle) and, staggeringly, that female participation had increased by 27% on 2015. Playing the game is one thing, however, Rugby League needs females in and around the sport in all capacities for the interest to grow. The fact that the NRL Women's League had over 2,000 female coaches, sports trainers and referees by 2016 is an incredible feat; it demonstrates how quickly the sport is spreading.

Exposure is what the game needs and Australia have taken the initiative. The female 2015 ANZAC Test was broadcast on FTA TV for the first time in Sydney, with the Jillaroos - the female national side - playing a three-match series against the Kiwis at the 2015 Auckland 9's. All three matches were broadcast for the first time on television, attracting over 500,000 viewers with the great Darren Lockyer as a commentator - a remarkable feat for a sport still in its infancy.

The World Cup

The Women's World Cup begins this week alongside the men's game for the first time ever. The female version began merely 17 years ago and there have been four tournaments since. Yet, there is an exciting feeling surrounding the competition this year - the final will take place on 2 December in a doubleheader with the men's final following after. In fact, the women's finalists will be playing in front of more than 50,000 spectators in Brisbane - an achievement that very few in the sport can boast about.

This World Cup also feels on an entirely different level to what has gone before: in the 2013 tournament, for example, there were only four teams with the top two in a group of four going straight through to the final. Matches were played in the Yorkshire towns of Dewsbury, Featherstone, Batley and Hunslet before the final took place at Headingley, Leeds - a far cry from the stunning city of Sydney. And, in total, the tournament lasted a mere nine days.

The 2017 tournament instead comprises six teams across two groups of three, with the top two in each qualifying for the semi-finals, providing greater excitement with an actual knockout, winner-takes-all round.

And, whilst at the men's World Cup question marks have been raised about the fact that many are playing for very low-rates or none, in the case of Ireland, at all, not even the biggest and best teams in the women's tournament offer their players any sort of payment to represent their nation. Instead, the women play for the pride and the love, not money, an attitude that those playing the male equivalent should take on board.

Should the women's England team - made up of ten of the double-winning Bradford Bulls' squad - make it to the final, they would equal the achievement of the England women's Rugby Union team, who lost their own World Cup Final to New Zealand in the summer. But, whereas the union side attracted mainstream media attention and a primetime TV slot, the Rugby League side have so far been shunned from such a level of publicity. But, if they should progress far in the competition, it would certainly draw in a level of interest that could only benefit the women's game.

Despite the lack of publicity, a platform for women's Rugby League has been well and truly set in the past few years and, the way the sport has been developing in both hemispheres, it is surely only a matter of time before Rugby League takes a hold both amongst the female population and in society as a whole. #RugbyLeague #RLWC2017 #bbcrl