The home challenge, the nicknames, the winning odds: What you need to know about Netball World Cup 2019

Liverpool is playing host to the world's best netballers this month in the 15th World Cup tournament - at a time when the sport has never been more popular.

So how does the tournament work, how strong are the home nations and who else are among the favourites to be crowned world champions on July 21?

And if the Thistles face the She-Cranes or the Gems take on the Sunshine Girls do you know who's playing?

Here's what you need to know about the Netball World Cup 2019 and netball's status as the UK's number one female participation sport, plus a notable recent advance in the men's game.

  • Ok, let's start with those nicknames.

Would England's nickname be as sweet by any other name? Credit: PA

England are the Roses, Scotland - you probably guessed - are the already mentioned Thistles and Northern Ireland are the Warriors.

Australia are the Diamonds, New Zealand are the Silver Ferns, Jamaica are the Sunshine Girls and it's Uganda who are known as the She-Cranes.

Zimbabwe are the Gems - not to be confused with the Bajan Gems, who hail from Barbados.

Joining them are the Trinidad and Tobago Calypso Girls, the Malawi Queens, the Fiji Pearls and the South African Proteas.

Sri Lanka are simply the Lankans, while Samoa and Singapore appear without a nickname.

  • Where's Wales?

Tracey Neville will step down as England head coach after the tournament. Credit: PA

Unlike the Olympic Games, there is no unified team for the United Kingdom.

Instead each of the individual home nations sends its own team.

After missing out on qualification earlier this year, Wales will not be taking part, leaving England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to represent the UK interest.

England have won never won the tournament, but took third place in both 2015 and 2011 and a hoping for home success in 2019.

The team are coached for the final time by Tracey Neville, who bows out after the tournament, and captained on court by Serena Guthrie.

The Vitality Roses also have two siblings playing side by side: Sasha and Kadeen Corbin.

England's team are hoping for success during the tournament. Credit: England Netball

Scotland have seen themselves rank in the mid-teens for the past few years, but are seen to be slowly improving.

In the last tournament the Thistles came 12th - a climb up from 14th spots in both 2011 and 2007.

The Scottish Netball team pictured with their kit ahead of the World Cup. Credit: Scotland Netball

The team, coached by Gail Parata, have targeted a top eight finish in Liverpool.

The Northern Irish contingent are also bidding for a top eight spot, having come eighth at last year's Commonwealth Games.

Caroline O'Hanlon captains the Northern Irish side. Credit: PA

Coached by Australian Dan Ryan, the amateur team of Warriors are captained by doctor - and Gaelic footballer - Caroline O'Hanlon.

  • So how does the tournament work?

From the preliminaries to the final placings. Credit:

The 16 teams are divided into four round-robin groups (A, B, C and D) based on their world rankings for Stage One of the Preliminaries, to prevent big clashes early on.

The top three finishers in each group make it through to Stage Two of the Preliminaries. The top three teams from groups A and B will form Group F, while the top trio from groups C and D will form group G.

The bottom four teams compete in Group E, fighting it out for the 13th-16th spots.

The teams finishing first and second in groups F and G will contest the semi-finals, with the winner of each match facing off in the final on July 21.

All the other teams missing out on the semis will play off for the next few places, giving every team the chance to boost their final ranking.

For the full list of fixtures go here

  • Who's favourite to win?

The elated Australian team after securing a win in the last tournament in 2015. Credit: AP

The Aussies are the hot favourites to retain their 2015 crown.

The team have utterly dominated the World Cup, securing the prime position in 11 of the 14 previous tournaments.

Unsurprisingly bookmakers make Australia the overwhelming favourite to win again.

The Aussies are most commonly priced at 11/10 to be champions.

  • What odds on England, Scotland or Northern Ireland winning?

England are narrow second favourites at 2-1, followed by Jamaica (5-1), New Zealand (8-1) and South Africa (20-1).

Then there's a big jump to Malawi (100-1), Uganda (200-1) and the home nations of Scotland (500-1) and Northern Ireland (500-1).

Sri Lanka, Samoa and Singapore are deemed least likely - priced at 5,000-1.

Beyond the realms of possibility? They're the same odds which Leicester City defied to win the Premier League in 2016.

  • How big is netball in the UK in 2019?

Netball continues to inspire future generations of players. Credit: PA

It's estimated almost two million people in the UK play netball at least once a week during the season, with the vast majority of players making it the most participated women's sport.

Sport England reports 280,000 people play the game at least twice a month - and that number is rising.

The number of people taking part in the sport has risen 61% since 2006.

It's hoped events like the Netball World Cup spur more people to take part.

Fans are willing to turn out to watch big ticket matches too; 12 of the 28 clashes during the tournament sold out before the opener.

The sport is touted by Sport England as perfect for all ages, with many reestablishing skills they learned playing the game at school.

  • So what about the men's game?

While mixed netball is played across the country (albeit to a far smaller degree than women-only leagues), men-only teams are a rarity.

But there was a notable breakthrough for the game earlier this year on the other side of the world with the first televised match featuring an all-men's side.

Two New Zealand teams, one men's and one women's team, played each other in the screened clash.

The all-female Silver Ferns were beaten 54-50 in the Auckland play off against the New Zealand men's team.

While the two teams had met before, this was the first time they'd played outside of a training match - and in the public spotlight.