A disputed try led to the formation of the International Rugby Football Board in 1886 by the unions of Ireland, Scotland and Wales who proposed that a neutral board should agree upon and govern the rules of rugby football. The Rugby Football Union, who as the first and oldest union had set the laws to that point, would join the IRFB in 1890 and hold half of the 12 votes with the founding unions each holding two votes.
The composition of the board and its seat allocation has altered over time with the growing popularity of the game. New Zealand, South Africa and Australia would join in 1949 but it would be a further 29 years before France became the eighth member of the IRFB. The introduction of a Rugby World Cup in 1987 was the catalyst for the game spreading across the world and membership had grown significantly by the end of the century.
This growth continues to this day with Nepal and Panama becoming the newest members of World Rugby in November 2020, taking the membership total to 128 unions.
The governing body oversaw the advent of professionalism in August 1995 and three years later became known as the International Rugby Board. A return to the Olympic programme for rugby sevens was secured in October 2009 with a name change following in November 2014 when it became known as World Rugby as part of a major rebrand.