• World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont hails historic day for rugby
  • Fiji and Samoa follow Georgia, Romania and USA onto Council under sweeping governance reform
  • Female Council representation increases to 17, reflecting gender balance commitment
  • Successful pathway in place for all member unions to work towards Council representation
  • Algeria welcomed as an associate member, increasing World Rugby unions to 124

Fiji and Samoa have participated in their first World Rugby Council meeting, while Algeria were accepted as an associate member on an historic day for the sport.

With a new governance model paving the way for wider representation on World Rugby’s Council, Fiji and Samoa were warmly welcomed by Council, which now comprises 51 members.

Having successfully achieved the required good governance criteria in line with governance reform launched in November 2015, the unions follow Georgia, Romania and USA onto the expanded Council and will act as an inspiration for other unions aspiring to take a seat on Council.

In another landmark, In line with sweeping governance reform to promote gender balance and opportunity, 17 of the 51 Council member positions are now occupied by women – an historic high – as World Rugby continues its advance towards gender equality. Many Council members were also present at the launch of World Rugby's new global campaign for women in rugby titled 'Try and Stop Us' on Tuesday, a key initiative in the organisation's drive for gender equality across the sport.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont welcomed Khaled Babbou (Rugby Africa), Vanessa Doble (South Africa), Sol Iglesias (Argentina), Francis Kean (Fiji) and the Honorable Prime Minister Tuilaepa Malielegaoi (Samoa) to their first Council meeting, while also paying tribute to Aziz Bougja, who stepped down as Rugby Africa president last year.

Beaumont also hailed the landmark meeting, recognising the enormous contribution that the Pacific Islands make to the global game.

“This is an historic day for World Rugby and the Pacific Islands, and a reflection of the importance and success of the transformational governance reforms made by this organisation and the unions.

“We are delighted to be welcoming Fiji and Samoa to Council, two unions who have contributed so much to the game. The Pacific Islands are unique, immersed in rugby heritage, and I know that the unions will bring excellent insights and make strong contributions on Council.

“This shows that the model is in place, the pathway is in place and the door is open to other unions who aspire to have a seat on Council. We encourage all unions to take inspiration from Fiji and Samoa, review their governance and strive to achieve the required criteria.

“World Rugby is committed to the sustainable growth of the sport set against a backdrop of strong governance, and we will continue to work with our unions to ensure that they have all the support to achieve and maintain the necessary criteria.”

Council Member for Fiji, Francis Kean said: "This is a significant moment for Fiji rugby and all those who have worked towards this objective, implementing new structures and governance pathways. We look forward to working with World Rugby and the Council to further our contribution to the global game in the boardroom."

Honorable Prime Minister Tuilaepa Malielegaoi added: "The World Rugby Council is a very important place to be - it is where decisions are made on the future of the sport and Samoa is very excited to be here. We've played an active role in participating in international rugby competitions across the world – from 15s to sevens – despite being a very small country with a small player pool so for us to be here at this meeting, and to unite with World Rugby on their vision to grow the sport, is an incredible learning experience."

In another landmark decision, Council approved the recommendation of the Executive and Regional Committees to accept Algeria as an associate member of World Rugby having met the required criteria. Algeria is a growing, thriving union. There are now 124 national unions in membership of World Rugby.

Council also approved the appointment of Khaled Babbou (Rugby Africa), Claudia Betancur (Sudamérica Rugby), Rolande Boro (Rugby Africa) to the Regional Advisory Committee, which is chaired by Dennis Dwyer (Rugby Americas North). 

World Rugby Council: Sir Bill Beaumont (Chairman), Agustín Pichot (Vice-Chairman – Argentina), John Jeffrey, Mark Dodson (Scotland), Philip Orr, John O’Driscoll and Susan Carty (Ireland), Gareth Davies, Anthony Buchanan and Julie Paterson (Wales), Jonathan Webb, Deborah Griffin and Nigel Melville (England), Cameron Clyne, Brett Robinson and Raelene Castle (Australia), Mark Robinson, Deb Robinson and Steve Tew (New Zealand), Mark Alexander, Vanessa Doble and Jurie Roux (South Africa), Bernard Laporte and Serge Simon (France), Marcelo Rodriguez and Sol Iglesias (Argentina), Alfredo Gavazzi, Nino Sacca and Susanna Vecchi (Italy), Pat Parfrey (Canada), Ichiro Kono and Keiko Asami (Japan), Lasha Khurtsidze (deputising for George Nijaradze) (Georgia), Alin Petrache (Romania), Bob Latham (USA), Francis Kean (Fiji), Honorable Prime Minister Tuilaepa Malielegaoi (Samoa), Octavian Morariu and Veronika Muehlhofer (Rugby Europe), Trevor Gregory and Ada Milby (Asia Rugby), Khaled Babbou (Rugby Africa), Dennis Dwyer and Cristina Flores (Rugby Americas North), Sebastián Pineyrúa and Claudia Betancur (Sudamérica Rugby), Richard Sapias and Cathy Wong (Oceania Rugby).

Apologies: Rolande Boro (Rugby Africa); Brigitte Jugla (France) and Lesley Thomson (Scotland).