• Participation is one of the three core pillars of World Rugby’s strategic plan launched in April
  • Plan is focused on empowering the 128 member unions and six regions by increasing their capacity and capability
  • Ambition to increase the total global playing population to over 10 million by 2025
  • In line with strategic commitment to grow the women’s game, this plan aims to increase active female players by a further 10 per cent
  • Successful Get into Rugby and Impact Beyond programmes to be expanded

World Rugby has today published a modern, ambitious and player welfare driven participation plan which is focused on empowering it’s 128 member unions and six regions by increasing their capacity and capability to deliver participation growth for all forms of the sport around the globe.

Participation, alongside competition and engagement, is one of the three core pillars of World Rugby’s strategic plan – ‘A Global Sport for All – True to its Values’ – which was launched in April with a key aim to advance the growth of the sport through to 2025.


Rugby is a global growth sport, seeing strong upward trends in participation and gender equality over the last decade with more women and girls being encouraged into the game than ever before.

While the effects of the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic continue to impact all sports, World Rugby’s participation plan aims to implement the foundations of long term, sustainable growth. This will be achieved by supporting unions to increase their capability to promote participation through reaching new recruits but also through the retention of existing players.

With uniting the rugby family at heart, the plan sets out how the sport will attract new participants and welcome back players following the global pandemic through a commitment to make it as safe, accessible, attractive and enjoyable as possible for all.

World Rugby is investing £570 million in the development of the sport between 2020-2023, including support for unions and regions for the development of the game. This will be further enhanced through the provision of a greater range of services to better enable them to grow the game around the world.

The participation plan recognises the diversity that exists across the globe and that unions are at different stages of development, with the need to adopt a differentiated approach that sees resources concentrated on supporting player retention in established nations, and on reaching new players in emerging nations.

The successful Get into Rugby  programme will continue to be a core element of World Rugby’s participation plan and has been updated and improved to promote greater retention in the game.

The Get Into Rugby programme enables unions and regions to increase the number of new players, coaches and referees entering the game while also promoting the unique values of the game and aims to allow boys and girls to enjoy playing for the first time in a safe, enjoyable and progressive environment, in line with the principles of World Rugby’s Charter for Rugby.

The World Rugby Impact Beyond Programme uses World Rugby tournaments as a catalyst for the growth of the game. Impact Beyond Programmes are run alongside all major World Rugby events, focusing on development, participation, coaching, volunteering and business programmes to further support the growth of the game.

The Rugby World Cup 2019 Impact Beyond programme inspired 2.25 million new rugby participants in Asia, including 1.18 million in Japan alone. The new participation plan aims to grow the Impact Beyond programme into a key sport for development programme aimed at using rugby and its values as a basis to affect social change and improve the lives of people around the world.

Player welfare is at the heart of World Rugby’s strategic plan and the recently launched mission to cement rugby as the most progressive sport on player welfare underpins the participation plan. In line with the core ‘welfare focused law amendments’ pillar of the welfare strategy, the participation plan is currently driving feasibility of adapted laws for the community game via a Community Laws Framework. In addition work has also begun reviewing of the game’s non-contact rugby variants, to offer a wider set of options for unions to adopt to attract new participants and welcome back those who may want to play contact rugby.

Long term outcomes will focus on creating stronger unions and regions, as measured by a new Union Development toolkit and an ambition to increase the total global playing population to over 10 million, and those playing regularly in active teams to over 6m by 2025.

In line with World Rugby’s ongoing strategic commitment to grow the women’s game, the participation plan aims to increase active female players by a further 10 per cent by 2025.

A big focus of the plan is to create longer sustainable structures to promote lifelong participation in the game. The ambition to reach 60,000 active teams globally is an important part of establishing those structures.

World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said: “The unions and regions are the lifeblood of the sport and our participation plan is rightly focused on strengthening and empowering our members to increase their capacity and capability to grow the game around the globe, reaching out to both existing and potential new participants.

“While recognising the challenges facing sport and wider society as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the plan sets out World Rugby’s long-term mission to grow participation across all forms of the game. The plan incorporates the ambition to continue to build a stronger, safer game that remains accessible to all.

“Participation is one of three core pillars in our new strategic plan, alongside competition and engagement, and is ultimately the reason we exist as an organisation. Our resolute focus on player welfare transcends all of our strategic planning and underpins this new participation plan. The future for rugby is bright and this plan aims to capitalise on the opportunity to further globalise and grow the game we love.”