The International Rugby Board has announced exciting plans to restructure the Game in West Asia to reflect its ongoing commitment to the growth and development of Rugby in the area.

The IRB met with stakeholders on Friday morning in Dubai to outline details of the restructure which will see the creation of a number of new Unions in the area. The first of these is expected to be the United Arab Emirates which should become an IRB Member Union by 2010.

In order to facilitate this major expansion the existing combined multi-state Union, the Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union (AGRFU), will cease to exist by the end of 2010.

“We held very positive meetings this morning with the AGRFU and representatives from all stakeholders where we outlined our vision for the Game in West Asia – an area that has great potential for growth. All agreed that the common goal is the development of the Game and access to Rugby for everyone and all parties are looking forward to working together to achieve that goal,” said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.

“The IRB wants to maximise access to the sport in an area where there is a clear appetite for Rugby illustrated by the awarding of major IRB tournaments to Dubai, including the IRB Under 19 World Championship in 2006, the annual IRB Sevens World Series tournament and Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009. Laying the foundations for autonomous Unions to grow with IRB assistance in countries such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia is a very exciting prospect,” added Lapasset.

In a major boost each Union will have a direct link to the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) IRB Regional Association, unlocking IRB assistance in key areas including technical and administrative support, coaching, funding and new competition structures which will provide a more clearly defined player development pathway in West Asia.

The IRB has also created a new position through the appointment of Matthew Oakley as West Asia Project Manager to work alongside the IRB's Regional Development Manager for Asia Jarrad Gallagher to oversee the implementation of the development process and the review of competition structures.

“Existing cross-border competition structures will remain until at least the end of 2010, while a comprehensive review is undertaken involving all stakeholders. The objective is to work closely with all the stakeholders to identify competition structures that provide a clear development pathway aimed at raising overall playing standards and growing the player base in the area,” added Lapasset.