Rugby: a sport for everyone

Rob Abernethy, Rugby World Cup General Manager 2019, explains how the game of rugby is an important platform for encouraging greater diversity and inclusion.

Rugby is a growing, thriving, global sport because it is inclusive and fosters diversity at all levels. This is an essential feature of World Rugby’s mission:  a sport for all, true to its values.

We are a game for all shapes and sizes, genders, ages and abilities. From touch, to tag, to beach, sevens, tens, and fifteens, there is something in rugby for everyone.

We are determined to close the gender gap in rugby. Driven by an ambitious 2017-25 Women’s game development plan, we are breaking down barriers and seizing opportunities – strengthening participation and competitions, promoting leadership and inspiring everyone to get on board.

Rob in suit smiling

“We don’t just talk about the values of rugby – of solidarity, passion, integrity, discipline and respect – we live them.”

Today, rugby is the fastest-growing women’s team sport, with the female fan base growing at six times the rate of males. For the second year in a row in 2018, more new females joined the sport than men – indeed, twice as many last year.

At a governance level, World Rugby has moved from 0% women on its Representative Council to 35% in a little over a year. This is rapid progress indeed.

World Rugby is focused on including people with disability to become part of the global rugby family. We are proud of our partnership with the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation and the shared values and projects that we hold so dear.

Japan is a trailblazer in wheelchair rugby and we will see this form of the game showcased at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

World Rugby’s partnership with ChildFund is building stronger, more inclusive, communities and giving more disadvantaged young people in Asia the opportunity to learn valuable life skills through rugby.

As part of the Impact Beyond 2019 programme, ChildFund will reach more marginalised youth in Asia – girls, children from developing communities, and young people living in rural and remote areas who have never had the opportunity to take part in organised sport before.

We are also working closely with International Gay Rugby, and promote a range inclusivity and diversity projects around the world.

But none of this would be possible without purpose, people and character. We don’t just talk about the values of rugby – of solidarity, passion, integrity, discipline and respect – we live them.

Yes, there are always challenges, and areas where we can improve and grow. But as sporting community, we are a sum of our global grassroots and elite parts.

Because we believe that rugby is a sport for everyone, we are a powerful movement for good.