The World Rugby Council has approved the recommendation of the Executive and Regional Committees to elevate the Mongolian Rugby Football Union (MRFU) to full member status, continuing the global expansion of the sport which has 128 members across six regions.
The MRFU was established in 2003 following its initiation by one of Mongolia’s famous wrestlers, Mr.Tserenpuntsag Tsedendamba, who now serves as the member of Mongolian Parliament. The union became an associate member of the international federation in November 2004 and has now met the necessary governance criteria to achieve World Rugby full member status.
Mongolian rugby started with occasional social matches between locals and expats has grown to become one of the most exciting new team sports in the country.
In a country where the temperature can range from -35 to +35 degrees throughout the year and the capital Ulaanbaatar is the coldest capital city in the world, developing an outdoor team sport is a tough and unique challenge.
While the Mongolian sport culture is predominantly based on individual sports such as wrestling, judo, boxing, archery and others, Mongolian team sports are beginning to thrive and achieve success with increased access to facilities and infrastructures.
The MRFU has achieved numerous milestones in recent years having won Division 4 of the Asian Rugby Championship in 2014 and finishing fourth in the 2019 Asia Sevens Trophy. Rugby has been included in the Mongolian Armed Forces Sport programme since 2018.
The MRFU now has successful and competitive age grade and National championship tournaments, which attract young and upcoming players while World Rugby’s ‘Get Into Rugby’ programme has also been successful in attracting new rugby players with over 7,000 participants by 2016. The union has a Women’s Rugby Development Programme 2021-2025 in place which aims to double the number of female players and coaches over the next four years. In 2021, rugby classes began being piloted in schools with the aim of having rugby included in the secondary school PE curriculum in the medium term future.
The MRFU is now working towards sustaining the growth level and reaching the wider population in the rural areas of the country. Despite the harsh climatic conditions, for Mongolians rugby is a good fit due to the lifestyle of the people, and the passion for physical sports such as wrestling.
Rugby World Cup 2019 hosted in Japan, the first held in Asia, broke fan engagement records and boosted rugby’s profile across the world’s most youthful and populous continent. Followed by the 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo, a bright spotlight has been shone on Asian rugby and Japan captain Michael Leitch was impressed when visiting Mongolia prior to RWC 2019, “I believe that with the background in sport and history that Mongolians can become great athletes in rugby,” said Leitch.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “We are delighted to welcome the Mongolian Rugby Football Federation to full member status today. The union has made great progress in a relatively short period of time and reflects the continuing ripple effect legacy of taking our blue ribband event, the Rugby World Cup, to Asia for the first time in 2019.
“The sustainable global growth of our sport combined with strong governance is a key priority and we are committed to increasing the breadth and diversity of the global game. The progress being made in countries such as Mongolia a great tribute to the many talented coaches, administrators and volunteers involved in growing the sport throughout the regions. As a full member of the World Rugby family we will provide them with continuous support and a solid framework to further accelerate the growth of rugby in Mongolia.”
MRFU President Mr.Batbayar Purevjargal said: "As a Union, we are thrilled to have reached this very important milestone in our Union’s development history by becoming a World Rugby full member today, especially in these challenging times which is a great testament to our Union staff, management team and all participants for their commitment and hard work shown over the years.
“Although traditionally as a nation we are renowned for our achievements in individual sports, we believe that rugby can lead Mongolia to become a true team sport nation. The MRFU is committed to the development of rugby at grass root level and to make rugby accessible to everyone in Mongolia with the long-term aim of sustainable development and becoming one of Asia’s top rugby nations.
“We would like to extend our warm gratitude to everyone at World Rugby and Asia Rugby for their support and most importantly all our rugby players, supporters and enthusiasts in Mongolia in reaching this milestone. We look forward to spread the rugby ethos in Mongolia and be a rugby force on the international stage."