Tom Tierney wants to "hit the ground running" when host nation Ireland begin their mission to deliver a World Cup, but they'll have to navigate a pool teeming with quality. 

Their Women's World Cup odyssey finally begins on home soil in two weeks' time and neither Tierney nor his players have attempted to play down expectations.

Last November's draw in Belfast's City Hall was hardly favourable: France, Australia and Japan all stand before the Irish in Pool C and with only the winners guaranteed progression to the semi-finals, nothing is going to come easy.

The UCD Bowl is a sellout for all three collisions, so a partisan crowd will doubtless give Niamh Briggs and Co a welcome lift. And after their heroics three years ago in France, the bar has been set high.

Ireland notched a memorable, historic defeat of New Zealand [who had won the previous four World Cups] en route to the semi-finals, where they were heavily beaten by eventual champions England. Twelve of that squad return for this tournament so there is experience to back up the fresh faces.

The English won a Grand Slam shootout 34-7 in Donnybrook back in March but Ireland held their own for large periods of that game and Tierney's troops could take plenty of positives from the loss to a fully professional outfit.

They head to Fota Island in Cork this Friday for a four-day camp in which they'll take on Spain, housed in a daunting Pool B and tweaking preparations themselves for clashes with England, Italy and the USA.

After that, it's showtime. So who are the Irish facing, and can they expect to escape to the knockout stages? 

Shannon Parry captains Australia

AUSTRALIA (UCD Bowl, Wednesday 9 August, 7pm)

Ireland's opener could be the most physical test they'll face. 

Tierney has already spoken of the threat the Australians up front; they're loaded with strong ball-carriers capable of punching holes.

Added to that, head coach Paul Verell can call on several players with Sevens experience who lend creativity, width and quality ball-handling skills to the back line.

Verell has said he expects his team to go through - "we have looked at Ireland, France and Japan, and we are expecting to get through and hopefully top that pool, we definitely can" - so there'll be no shortage of belief in the Aussie camp.

But the Wallaroos were hammered 53-10 by England in their International Rugby Series Test in June, a result that would have given Ireland plenty of encouragement as a direct barometer. 

They also lost 44-17 to New Zealand 45-5 to Canada in that series, though those games against arguably the three strongest teams that will travel to Dublin and Belfast in August will stand to them.

Australia squad: Cheyenne Campbell, Liz Patu, Violeta Tupuola, Evelyn Horomia, Caroline Fairs, Hilisha Samoa, Hana Ngaha, Rebecca Clough, Alisha Hewett, Millie Boyle, Alexandra Sulusi, Shannon Parry (capt), Chloe Butler, Grace Hamilton, Vesinia Schaaf-Taufa, Victoria Latu, Natasha Haines, Cobie-Jane Morgan, Katrina Barker, Samantha Treherne, Fenella Hake, Sarah Riordan, Sharni Williams, Kayla Sauvao, Nareta Marsters, Huia Swanell, Ashleigh Timoko, Ashleigh Hewson.

JAPAN (UCD Bowl, Sunday 13 August, 5.15pm)

Ireland played Japan in two warm-up games in June, coming out on the right side of 24-22 and 24-15 scorelines, but their vanquished opponents showed flashes of quality in both of those runouts.

Winger Honoka Tsutsumi caused Tierney's side problems as did a strong maul, and No 8 Mateitoga Bogidraumainadave has also caught the eye in their warm-up games.

Wales were impressively dispatched after the games against Ireland before Japan hammered Hong Kong twice to lift this month's Asia Cup.

They come with a threat then; the French have already aired their fear of what they deem to be an 'unknown quantity'. 

Ireland will have an advantage in that regard but with head coach Goshi Arimizu not naming his full squad until 30 July, they could still come to Belfield with a trick or two up the sleeve.

This is Japan's first World Cup in 15 years - they defeated the Irish 18-0 in the 13th place final in 2002. A repeat of that success would likely be a fatal blow for the Irish.

Japan squad: TBA on 30 July

FRANCE (UCD Bowl, Thursday 17 August, 7.45pm)

The French are the highest-ranked team in the pool - fourth, with Ireland fifth and the Aussies sixth - but they'll hold no fear for the hosts in this potentially defining showdown.

Ireland dug out a 13-10 win at Donnybrook in their Six Nations meeting in February, and that came with Sevens stars Sene Naoupu, Alison Miller and Hannah Tyrrell, all absent, as well as the injured Briggs.

France had two players sent to the bin a a scrappy, attritional battle so will hope they'll be better prepared to cope with a Dublin furnace.

They finished third when they hosted the tournament in 2014 and there's some confident noises coming from the French camp. They know Ireland well and don't fear them either.

France squad: Audrey Abadie, Montserrat Amedee, Caroline Boujard, Caroline Drouin, Elodie Guiglion, Shannon Izar, Caroline Ladagnous, Jade Le Pesq, Marjorie Mayans, Carla Neisen, Chloé Pelle, Elodie Poublan, Yanna Rivoalen, Jessy Tremouliere; Manon Andre, Julie Annery, Lise Arricastre, Patricia Carricaburu, Lénaig Corson, Annaëlle Deshayes, Julie Duval, Céline Ferer, Audrey Forlani, Romane Menager, Gaëlle Mignot(capt), Safi N'Diaye, Caroline Thomas, Dhia Traore

Watch all of Ireland's World Cup games live on RTÉ2 and the RTÉ Player