• 9.1 million players globally, more than a quarter women and girls
  • Over two million girls and boys participated in Get Into Rugby in 2017
  • Rapid growth in emerging rugby markets such as China, Colombia and Belgium

A record number of girls and boys were introduced to rugby in 2017, according to the World Rugby Year in Review 2017, as the sport continues its unprecedented growth with 9.1 million men, women and children playing the sport in World Rugby member unions worldwide.

"In 2017, 2,139,300 girls and boys across 133 active unions took part in the Get Into Rugby programme"

With rugby now played in more countries around the world than ever before, World Rugby’s development programme Get Into Rugby has been a major catalyst behind the global rise in participation numbers, acting as a gateway for young people to try, play and stay in rugby. 

In 2017, more than two million (2,139,300) girls and boys across 133 active unions took part in the programme, an increase of 7.5 per cent compared to 2016. From the southern-most tip of Argentina, to remote parts of Russia and the tiny Pacific Island of Nauru, Get Into Rugby expanded its global reach, enriching the lives of those taking part and providing the introduction, pathway and infrastructure for sustainable participation growth. 

Significantly, in a Women’s Rugby World Cup year, 39 per cent of all Get Into Rugby participants globally were female – rising to nearly half in the Rugby Africa and Rugby Americas North regions – as World Rugby continues to prioritise the acceleration of the women’s game through its landmark Women’s Plan 2017-25. In total 2.4 million women and girls are playing rugby at all levels, accounting for more than a quarter (26 per cent) of players globally and an increase in player numbers of 60 per cent since 2013.

Across the regions, Asia continued to embrace the sport as rugby fever maintained its grip on the continent in the lead up to Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, with the number of Get Into Rugby participants reaching to 721,800, an increase of 18 per cent compared to 2016. India, China and Japan were all represented in the top five performing unions. Meanwhile, Project Asia 1 Million, which aims to attract one million new rugby participants by 2020 as part of the RWC 2019 Impact Beyond programme, had reached 575,323 participants at all levels of the game by the end of 2017. 

Colombia and South Africa delivered the most Get Into Rugby activities throughout 2017, while Oceania Rugby oversaw an increasing number of mixed-gender events, driving forward rugby’s message of a game for all. In a landmark development, Get Into Rugby is now part of the physical education curriculum in all schools in Fiji and Pakistan, and in schools and universities in India. In addition, the ‘I Also Play Referee’ development project, which introduces young people to refereeing and first piloted in Africa, has now also been launched in Belgium.

The latest figures further demonstrate the youth appeal of a sport that is increasingly attracting new players and fans due to its character building and inclusive values. Coupled with record growth of its fan base to 338 million worldwide and a social media following of eight million across all World Rugby social and digital platforms, 2017 has been a ground-breaking year. And with more than US$1 million earmarked for rugby projects in more than 40 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) in this first year of new Olympic Solidarity cycle, almost matching in one year the results over four years of the previous cycle, this growth looks set to continue.

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “2017 was another exceptional year for rugby on and off the field. Within a total growing playing population of 9.1 million it was exciting to see more than 2.1 million children try rugby via our Get Into Rugby programme run in partnership with unions and regions. 

“Particularly pleasing is the level of female participation both in Get Into Rugby and overall during a record-breaking Women’s Rugby World Cup year. Thirty-nine per cent of Get Into Rugby participants in 2017 were female, and there are now more than 2.4 million registered female players worldwide.”  

Get Into Rugby promotes the character-building values of the game and allows children to experience rugby in a safe and progressive environment. Launched in 2013, a total of 5,948,556 participants have progressed through the programme.

The dedicated Get Into Rugby website – getintorugby.worldrugby.org – is now available in 15 languages: English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Brazilian, Portuguese, Arabic, Indonesian, Japanese, Dutch, German, Polish, Romanian, Hungarian, Korean and Russian.