Cape Town - World Rugby chairperson Bernard Lapasset is
anticipating a game-changing 2016 for rugby as the sport looks forward to an
action-packed year featuring rugby sevens' debut at the Olympic Games and
continued record participation growth.
"Undoubtedly, 2015 was an exceptional and
record-breaking year for rugby on and off the field with record participation
growth and an incredible Rugby World Cup 2015 showcasing the very best of our
sport, reaching and inspiring audiences in new and exciting ways,” Lapasset
told World Rugby’s official website.
"Across 48 matches during September and October, a
truly global celebration of rugby delivered the most compelling and competitive
tournament to date, attracting record attendances in stadia and reaching and
engaging with record broadcast, digital and social audiences in existing and,
significantly, new nations worldwide.
"Off the field, rugby continued to grow at a record
pace. Driven by World Rugby's investment programme and the increasing
halo-effect of Olympic inclusion, global participation topped 7.2 million,
while an additional one million boys and girls were introduced to the sport via
World Rugby's Get Into Rugby mass-participation programme with major growth
experienced in Africa, Asia and the Americas.
"The year also saw us announce wide-ranging historic
reform of our governance structures, which will pave the way for wider
representation and greater independence within our decision-making structures,
leading to a renewed strategic plan in 2016 and within it the blueprint for
continued sustainable growth."
At the centre of an action-packed 2016, the men's and
women's World Rugby Sevens Series visit new locations as the world's top teams
and players look to hone form ahead of the Olympic Games, while the global
qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan will begin.
The year will also see World Rugby maintain its commitment
to prioritising investment in player welfare, anti-doping and development
programmes as the sport grows on every front, while the quadrennial law review
process will begin closed law trials across domestic competitions with the dual
aim of game-simplification and player welfare enhancement.
"If 2015 was a record-breaking year, then 2016 will be
game-changing as the Olympic Games provides an exciting opportunity for the
world's top teams to showcase the dynamism and excitement of rugby sevens on
sport's biggest stage,” said Lapasset.
"Collectively we have long since embraced the Olympic
opportunity, which is a major and exciting catalyst behind record participation
growth with governments, National Olympic Committees and educational structures
embracing and investing in a sport that has multiple social and performance
benefits from the playground to the podium.
"Preparation for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, the
first time our showcase event has been staged in Asia, will continue to
accelerate in 2016. This is a very exciting time for rugby in Japan following
the feats of the national team at Rugby World Cup 2015 and with the venues
locked down, the tournament dates set and a new and vibrant tournament logo
launched, planning is in great shape as Japan begins its first year as Rugby
World Cup host.
"The Rugby World Cup 2023 hosting process will continue
to gather pace this year, featuring four very exciting host candidates. We are
delighted with the strong level of hosting interest from unions and
governments, which highlights the enormous appeal of Rugby World Cup as a
low-risk, high-return economic, social and sporting driver. We look forward to
further detailed and exciting dialogue as the process progresses this year.
"These are unprecedented times for rugby and while we
grow throughout 2016 and beyond we must ensure that our sport stays true to its
character-building values and continues to promote and protect integrity
through good governance and robust anti-doping programmes, with the welfare of
players at all levels remaining firmly at the heart of all that we do.”