LONDON, 28 OCTOBER 2015 (INSIDE THE GAMES) ---Harnessing record growth and advancing player welfare are among the key topics on the agenda at the World Rugby General Assembly, which is being held in London today.
The two-day Assembly was opened by Rugby Football Union (RFU) President Jason Leonard, a World Cup winner with England in 2003, on Monday.
The meeting is taking place ahead of the final of the eighth edition of the World Cup, set to conclude on Saturday (October 31) when Australia meet defending champions New Zealand at Twickenham Stadium, and comes at an exciting time for the sport with rugby sevens set to to debut on the Olympic programme at Rio 2016.
Delegates from the World Rugby Council and Executive Committee are attending the Assembly, along with representatives from the governing body’s six Regional Associations and 120 member unions.
World Rugby's strategic plan from 2016 to 2020 is set to be re-evaluated with the organisation claiming to have met and exceeded their original targets for the growth and prosperity of the sport.
"This is a pivotal and exciting time for our sport, following an unprecedented period of investment, growth and commercial success,” said Oregan Hoskins, World Rugby vice-chairman.
“We are presented with golden opportunities to grow participation, to grow audiences from the stadium to the armchair and to establish rugby as a truly global sport for all.
"We can reflect on a truly special and record-breaking Rugby World Cup 2015 that will accelerate profile and participation growth, and look forward to a ground-breaking Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan when Asia will play host to our showcase event for the first time, while we are already maximising the wonderful opportunity that Olympic Games inclusion has brought to our sport.”
Hoskins was speaking in place of World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset, who was attending the funeral of World Rugby sevens operations manager Beth Coalter, viewed as one of the driving forces behind sevens gaining Olympic recognition.
The International Olympic Committee added the sport, along with golf, to the Games at its Session in Copenhagen in 2009.
Hoskins paid tribute to Coalter at the start of the Assembly - describing her as "a special women whose passion and drive was instrumental in rugby sevens' global success story” - and proceedings were briefly halted as a mark of respect.
While Hoskins focused on the progress made over the last two years by the sport, which World Rugby claim is played by over 7.2 million people worldwide and generates an annual turnover of $1 billion (£650 million/€900 million), challenges facing the game in a congested global sports market are also among the issues debated.
The closing gap in standard between lower tier nations such as Georgia, Fiji and Namibia compared to the top ranked countries at the Rugby World Cup was also reflected upon, with the $538 million (£350 million/€486 million) pumped into the game by the governing body between 2009 and 2016 seen as a key contributing factor for this.
Ways in which World Rugby can help improve player welfare and how to promote the game to new audiences will also feature on the agenda.
"We need to ensure from the stadium to the armchair that rugby continues to be compelling to play, watch and engage with,” Hoskins said.
“We also need to ensure as we grow that our participation strategies reach and inspire new boys and girls and that we continue to drive forward player welfare, integrity promotion and the fight against doping in sport."....PACNEWS