All sections Decade of growth
  1. Challenge and change
  2. Our game changers
  3. Our values
A decade of growth through partnership

In the last 10 years, rugby has grown on and off the pitch, with more fans than ever before and new players in all corners of the world.

The popularity of women’s rugby has soared.

We have seen a spectacular return to the Olympic Games.

And record-breaking Rugby World Cups.

All underpinned by an unwavering focus on player welfare.


128 member unions


(+11 since 2009)

9.6m people play rugby globally


(up from 3.7m in 2009)

28% of global players are women

877m global rugby followers


(up 30% since 2013)

Most successful men’s and women’s Rugby World Cups and first in an emerging market

Rugby sevens returned to the Olympic Games

32% increase in interest in emerging rugby nations and two-thirds see the game as more exciting

Player welfare advances successfully implemented including concussion prevention strategies and injury prevention programmes

Governance and decision-making structures modernised, advancing gender, nation and player inclusion


Player welfare standards adopted by all elite competitions

Exponential growth of accredited medics, coaches and trainers globally

RWC 2019 delivers 60% surplus of 2015 event for reinvestment in the game

World Rugby high-performance investment increases global competitiveness, including at Rugby World Cups

Sevens cemented within the Olympic Games programme after Rio debut

World Rugby governance review implemented


As we adapt and rebuild following the global COVID-19 pandemic, we must reimagine the role that our sport can play as a positive force for good in society.

Act with conviction and purpose, confronting the challenges we face, and continue to take every opportunity to advance the welfare of our players.
Be alive to the wider challenges facing society and the role we can play. We need to celebrate and promote diversity within rugby and society as a whole.
Play our part in supporting people and communities as they recover from this pandemic and support action to address climate change and make sport more sustainable.
The foundations built over the last decade mean rugby is in a strong place as we look forward to the next decade and the challenges ahead.

Sir Bill Beaumont

World Rugby Chairman 


“We are proud to launch our Strategic Plan 2021-2025. As World Rugby Chair, a former player, father of three rugby playing sons, and a fan, I am passionate about our sport at all levels and this strategy will take rugby forward, united behind a plan that serves the whole game."


"From community and professional club rugby, to unions, regions, commercial partners and fans, everyone has their say and part to play. Against a challenging societal and sporting backdrop, it will guide us as we work together to recover from the impacts of COVID-19 and grow the game we all love."


“Our game-changing targets aim to grow global participation, increase fan engagement and support our players, current, future and past - whose welfare continues to be our number one priority, transcending all we do. Importantly, the plan reflects our ambition for rugby to be progressive and tackle key societal issues. To bring people together and get them active in a safe and welcoming environment where everyone has equal opportunity to participate.”

Over the next four years, we will focus on four key areas that are vital to the future prosperity of the sport.
For each, we have set a series of game-changing targets that reflect our ambition and values.
The game is the heartbeat of our sport and it must be as safe, attractive and as enjoyable as possible at all levels.
Player welfare transcends everything that we do and will continue to be our number one priority.
Throughout the life of this strategic plan we will lead an open discussion with all our stakeholders about how we can continually advance player welfare and be constantly guided by scientific advice and medical advances. We will:

Lead targeted research informing and advancing injury prevention and mental wellbeing

Advance player welfare law review and trials to further protect players

Develop a flexible and practical ‘Community Code’ for 15s community rugby

Launch a non-contact form of the game for unions to implement

Increase player and coach input in World Rugby Committees and key decisions

Put fans at the forefront of decisions through our Fan Panel

We will raise standards and competitiveness by optimising our international competitions, to provide further opportunities for elite women and emerging markets, and to grow and diversify revenues. We will:

Launch new annual women’s and men’s emerging nations competitions by 2022

Deliver 10-year men’s and women’s Rugby World Cup hosting certainty

Ensure Rugby World Cup 2021 is the most successful women’s event ever

Advance the sport on the global stage at Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Revamp the World Rugby Sevens Series for 2022

Seek to develop a more compelling competition structure and unified approach to promoting the international competition cycle

With little community rugby being played during 2020, our central focus will be on retaining players and supporting unions and regions to build capacity and capability.
Alongside this, we will focus on growing women in rugby – the single biggest opportunity to grow the sport. We will:

Maintain a Union Fund to benefit participants in current major markets

Support a Union Fund to target female participation in established markets

Review the 2017-2025 Women’s Development Plan in 2021

Identify and support target markets based on participation and Performance potential, Union capability and capacity, and commercial sustainability

Increase Union capacity to sustain players, coaches, officials, staff and volunteers

We will continue to promote rugby and its values, driving engagement and enhancing collaboration across the sport. We will:

Drive a 10% increase in global followers and fans by 2025

Optimise our digital platforms to grow revenue for reinvestment in the game

Introduce an annual ‘State of the Union’ survey to gather feedback and better understand the needs of partners and fans

It is a plan for everyone involved in the game - regional associations, unions, partner organisations, Commercial Partners - and we are committed to being a responsible partner to all. We will live our values, continue to modernise our governance, and embrace diversity, inclusion and sustainability at every level. We will:

Implement the Independent Governance Review outcome

Activate diversity targets across recruitment and retention, communications, portrayal, and monitoring

Advance the ambitions of our Sustainability Charter, based on the UN Sports for Climate Action Declaration and Framework


Our values are at the heart of everything we do, how we behave as an organisation and a sport.