World Rugby has today launched an independent-led governance review, chaired by Sir Hugh Robertson KCMG PC DL. 

The comprehensive process aims to build on the strong foundations of the 2015 review, which delivered transformational wider union representation and gender inclusion on the international federation’s supreme decision-making body, the Council. 

It has the core objective of enhancing the effectiveness and agility of World Rugby’s governance structures, ensuring they further reflect the universality and diversity of rugby and society, and support the best possible decision-making process for the global game. 

British Olympic Committee Chairman and former UK Sports Minister, Sir Hugh Robertson will chair a diverse and game-wide representative Working Group comprising of independent experts, players and representatives from emerging and established rugby nations, with a broad range of experience and expertise.  

The Group will review and analyse the effectiveness of the present governance model in line with the terms of reference approved by the World Rugby Council and Executive Committee (EXCO).

Key focus areas include:

  • Gender balance and diversity on World Rugby Boards and Committees
  • Player representation within World Rugby’s governance structures
  • Committee structure and reporting flows for effectiveness
  • Suitability, definition and naming of emerging nations/established nations groups
  • The format and frequency of Council Meetings to best serve the global game
  • The criteria for appointment of Council members and the fit and proper person test for elected members

It will also identify best-practice governance models and lessons which World Rugby can apply, and analyse any required reforms, making recommendations for consideration by EXCO and Council.

World Rugby Chairman, Sir Bill Beaumont said: “In our manifesto, Bernard Laporte and I made a promise to undertake a governance review to ensure World Rugby is agile in its thinking and decision-making and our structures further reflect the diversity and values of our game.

“This is more important now than ever, and I would like to thank Sir Hugh Robertson for agreeing to lead this process as well as the experienced, independent experts who will be part of this Working Group. As our game continues to grow and we welcome new playing nations, it is imperative our structures and leadership reflect our ambitions and the universality of the game.”

Working Group Chair Sir Hugh Robertson added: “I am looking forward to working with this talented team from around the globe to conduct a comprehensive review and identify best practice. Rugby is a thriving global sport, with a spirit of inclusivity, unity and diversity, and I am committed to ensuring that this is reflected in the review process and any recommendations made by the Working Group.”

The Working Group consists of independent members (Sir Hugh Robertson, Sir Peter Cosgrove and Angela Ruggiero), northern unions (Bernard Laporte – FFR President and Martyn Philips – WRU CEO), southern unions (Mark Alexander – SARU President and Marcelo Rodriguez – UAR President), regions (Cristina Flores – Rugby Americas North and Cathy Wong – Oceania Rugby), emerging nations (Alin Petrache – FRR President), player representatives (Omar Hassanein – IRP CEO and Safi N’Diaye – France international) and World Rugby (Sir Bill Beaumont – Chairman and Brett Gosper – Chief Executive).

Since 2015 World Rugby has undertaken wide-ranging reform of its governance structures, creating a dynamic, diverse environment with wider union and regional representation and independent skills-based voices on its decision-making bodies. The World Rugby Council has expanded by more than a third with the inclusion of USA, Georgia, Samoa, Fiji and Uruguay and women currently account for a third of the 52 members.

It is anticipated that the review findings will be presented to the World Rugby Council later this year.

Supporting notes

World Rugby has been placed in the top group in the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations’ (ASOIF) third International Federation Governance report published in June 2020. Of 33 international federations assessed by the ASOIF Governance Taskforce only six sit within this group.

Sir Hugh Robertson is the Chairman of the British Olympic Association, having also been Vice-Chairman during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games when Team GB won a record medal haul. Previously, he was the Minister for Sport and the Olympics, responsible for the delivery of London 2012, an event widely regarded as the finest Olympic and Paralympic Games of recent times.

General Sir Peter Cosgrove is the recently retired Governor-General of Australia, holding the position since 2014. Sir Peter Cosgrove has until recently served as a Board Member and Patron of Australian Rugby and has been a passionate servant of the game for most of his life.

Angela Ruggiero is an American former ice hockey player, gold medallist, and four-time Olympian. She was a member of the International Olympic Committee from 2010-18 and served as a member of the Executive Board of the IOC after being elected the Chairperson of the IOC Athletes' Commission, the body that represents all Olympic athletes worldwide, a post which she held from 2016-18. She is an independent member of World Rugby’s Executive Committee.

Governance reform timeline

November 2017: World Rugby underscored commitment to furthering gender equality at all levels of the organisation by announcing sweeping reform of its Council –

October 2015: World Rugby Council approves wide-ranging reform of its governance structures, creating a dynamic environment for wider union and regional representation and an independent skills-based voice on the international federation's decision-making bodies –