• Nearly two million girls and boys participated in Get Into Rugby in 2016
  • 8.5 million men, women and children now playing the game worldwide
  • Women and girls account for more than a quarter of all global players
  • Thirty-nine per cent of Get Into Rugby participants in 2016 female

Close to two million (1,990,300) girls and boys in 129 nations took part in World Rugby’s mass-participation programme Get Into Rugby in 2016, almost double the number of participants in 2015.

The success of the grassroots scheme continues to drive the growth of the sport globally, with 8.5 million men, women and children now playing the game worldwide, according to the World Rugby Year in Review 2016.


2016 was a landmark year for World Rugby, with the sport’s return to the Olympic programme at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games contributing to its huge growth and continued popularity worldwide. Get Into Rugby plays a vital role in that growth by opening up the sport to more countries and more people than ever before.
Ten new countries adopted the programme in 2016 – Guatemala, Morocco, Luxembourg, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Anguilla, Macau, Ethiopia and Bolivia – which globally saw more than 30,000 trained personnel deliver activities in 129 countries across 2,250 locations.
Of World Rugby’s six regional associations, Sudamérica Rugby (382,600) and Asia Rugby (610,700) saw the greatest number of participants, the former boosted by the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and the latter, the build-up to Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Importantly, 39 per cent of Get Into Rugby participants worldwide in 2016 were female – that rose to 46 per cent in Rugby Americas North, which had the highest percentage of female participation across all six regions, while in nine countries, the number of girls participating outnumbered boys. This growth is set to continue under the leadership of World Rugby’s new General Manager for Women’s Rugby Katie Sadleir, who is overseeing the development of a landmark new strategy to boost women’s rugby further. 
In addition to the Get Into Rugby programme, 85 unions, supported by the six regional associations, organised more than 200 events attended by more than 60,000 participants as part of World Rugby’s IMPACT Beyond Rio 2016 project, which encouraged unions to organise activities to coincide with the Olympic Games to promote rugby and attract new players and fans.
Further key growth figures from the World Rugby Year in Review 2016 include:

  • 8.5 million men, women and children now playing the game in World Rugby member unions – an increase of eight per cent from 2015
  • 2.2 million women and girls accounting for more than a quarter of players in World Rugby member unions – an increase of 142 per cent since 2012
  • The addition of two new member unions (Guatemala and Slovakia) bringing the total number of affiliated nations to 121 – 103 full members and 18 associate members
  • 300 million fans worldwide – an increase of 50 million new fans over the past 12 months, thanks in part to a record-breaking Rugby World Cup 2015 and rugby’s return to the Olympic Games at Rio 2016
  • 4.7 million new users on World Rugby sites over the course of 2016 and 900,000 new fans on World Rugby social media platforms 

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “2016 was a fantastic year for World Rugby in more ways than one. Firstly, we saw rugby’s successful return to the Olympic Games with the world’s best sevens players lighting up Rio 2016 with a riveting display of passion and skill. This helped set the stage for our development programmes, Get Into Rugby and IMPACT Beyond, which successfully harnessed the momentum of the Games to deliver real engagement and significant growth.
“With 8.5 million people playing and enjoying rugby across the world, the game continues to go from strength to strength. Get Into Rugby, with nearly two million participants in 2016, is evidence of how our vibrant, values-driven sport is reaching out and engaging new players and fans worldwide. Particularly pleasing is the significant uplift in female participation. With 39 per cent of all Get Into Rugby participants and 2.2 million registered female players worldwide, rugby continues to set the pace as one of the fastest growing women’s team sports in the world.”

A snapshot of Get Into Rugby activities in 2016 

  • Bolivia hosted one of the highest Get Into Rugby activities to date, 5,000 metres above sea level
  • Rugby is used in girls’ orphanages in Indonesia to build their confidence
  • In Brunei, the Get Into Rugby programme is implemented in schools by law after the Sultan of Brunei’s son took part in an introduction to rugby session and loved it
  • Bineta Sena is an inspiration to young girls and women in Senegal to take up refereeing through the I Also Play Referee programme, having taken charge of the National Men’s First Division final at the tender age of 16 
  • Rugby is used in Colombia to fight gang violence
  • The Fiji National Secondary Schools Girls Sevens final attracted a crowd of 15,000 to ANZ Stadium in Suva and was televised on national television
  • In the Philippines, rugby is used to re-integrate former youth drug addicts back into society
  • Australia’s Olympic gold medallist Nicole Beck visited Vietnam and took part in a Pass it Back, powered by Get Into Rugby, coaching and referee clinics
  • Get Into Rugby is part of the PE curriculum now in all schools in Fiji
  • All 12 of the Indian team that played in the Asia Rugby Women’s Sevens Trophy came through the Get Into Rugby programme
  • In 15s, the first players to come through the Get Into Rugby programme and play international rugby are now being seen in Hungary (U18 men’s), Malta (U18 men’s) and Chinese Taipei (U18 men’s) as well as in Pakistan in women's sevens
  • The I Also Play Referee project, which introduces young people to refereeing, has now started in Belgium
  • The first Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifier took place in St Vincent and the Grenadines in March 2016 and during the build up to the match, RWC 2015 final referee Nigel Owens took part in a GIR session with local children
  • Snow rugby activities were held in India, Mongolia and Chile. In southern Chile a Get Into Rugby activity took place in the Osorno Volcano where children from the programme’s Puerto Varas and Jabalí headquarters gave a demonstration of five-a-side snow rugby

The new Get Into Rugby website – getintorugby.worldrugby.org – is now available in 15 languages: English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Brazilian, Portuguese, Arabic, Indonesian, Japanese, Dutch, German, Polish, Romanian, Hungarian, Korean and Russian.