• Rugby’s major stakeholders gathered in London to consider areas to enhance the overall accessibility and attractiveness of 15s rugby
  • Reducing stoppages, speeding up play, furthering welfare initiatives and overall entertainment value key priorities for all stakeholders
  • Considerations will be taken forward for further exploration by World Rugby and its stakeholders

Rugby’s major stakeholders have united to determine priorities for ensuring the sport is relevant, accessible and attractive for all as it continues to grow over the next decade.

With rugby expanding across all continents, driven by young people, women and emerging rugby nations, and Rugby World Cups confirmed through to 2033, the World Rugby Shape of the Game Conference in London challenged participants to consider what the sport could look like in the future.

Truly representative, collaborative and productive, the conference was attended by high performance union and international competition chief executives, union performance directors and coaches, and professional player representatives.

With 10 months to go until Rugby World Cup 2023 in France the immediate focus was on men’s elite 15s, while and a similar process will follow for the elite women’s 15s and community games as part of a holistic approach to shaping the future of the sport alongside World Rugby’s law review process. 

Noting the law amendment moratorium a year out from a Rugby World Cup (save for welfare reasons), the participants considered how, in the lead up to the tournament, the spectacle could be improved without amending law including considerations to reduce stoppages and foster greater continuity in the elite game. Underpinning both the short and long-term mission is the ongoing prioritisation of player welfare.

Over the two days, delegates considered the latest global player welfare landscape, global playing trends, the role of match officials, use of technology and the passion and engagement around unique sport with all participants committed to continue to protect and grow rugby. 

The conference identified key areas for further exploration: 

  • Focus on the fan: Insights from fans and broadcasters to inform the longer-term development of the sport as an entertainment product
  • Speed up the game: Focus on interventions and innovations to reduce stoppages, increase continuity and the rhythm of the game
  • Support match officials: Provide them with the tools to perform their role to their best ability, consider TMO intervention reductions
  • Underpin with player welfare: Continue to implement evidence-based strategies to mitigate head injuries and overall injuries in the sport
  • Reinforce the benefits of participation: The community game is the lifeblood of the sport and the risk of injury is much less than that of the elite game. The numerous benefits of participation and engagement in the sport will be reinforced whilst continuing to manage risk.

World Rugby will take away the considerations and insights for further exploration to prioritise areas that can be implemented in the short term without changing law ahead of Rugby World Cup 2023. This process also noted the ongoing drive to enhance the international men's calendar and the positive flow of the recent Rugby World Cup 2021 semi-finals and final.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “As a sport, a movement and a family, we must always challenge ourselves to be better. That means taking time to consider what fans and players want the future of our sport to be, a future where more people want to play and support the game, where injury risk is reducing and where all involved in the game have their say.

“This conference was the first step towards a reimagination of our sport. The full and frank contributions from a wide spectrum of disciplines gives us plenty to consider and to move forward with. I would like to thank all participants for taking time out at a busy time to unite, collaborate and consider our future.”

Attendees:

Unions (CEOs, High Performance Directors and head coaches): Argentina, Australia, England, Fiji, France, Georgia, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, USA, Wales
Organisations: World Rugby, The Six Nations, The Rugby Championship
Players: International Rugby Players
Match officials: Members of the Emirates World Rugby Match Officials