A record number of girls and boys were introduced to rugby in 2017, according to the World Rugby Year in Review 2017 released today, as the sport continues its unprecedented growth with 9.1 million men, women and children playing the sport in World Rugby member unions worldwide.
Reaching new territories and expanding its global reach, World Rugby’s development programme Get Into Rugby has been a major catalyst behind the global rise in participation numbers, acting as a gateway for young people to try, play and stay in rugby. In 2017, more than two million (2,139,300) girls and boys across 133 active unions took part in the programme, an increase of 7.5 per cent compared to 2016.
Rugby is now played in more countries than ever before with Get Into Rugby even reaching the tiny island of Nauru, north-east of Australia, with the first-ever women’s tag rugby tournament taking place on its beautiful white, sandy beaches in February 2017. Meanwhile, Kiribati became the latest union to register for the programme, joining in December. Significantly Oceania Rugby trained a further 1,900 coaches in 2017 to deliver Get Into Rugby activities across the region. This has more than doubled since 2016 (112 per cent) and marks the biggest regional growth in trained personnel worldwide.
Participants at the 2017 Crest West Kids Festival, the largest school aged festival in Oceania.
Overall, Oceania Rugby recorded 81,500 new participants. In addition, Get Into Rugby is now part of the PE curriculum in Fiji, a landmark development that will ensure even more young people are exposed to the sport. A new online Get Into Rugby database is also being piloted in Fiji to help deal with the interest generated by the programme within the last 12 months.
Pleasingly, in a Women’s Rugby World Cup year, 39 per cent of all Get Into Rugby participants globally were female as World Rugby continues to prioritise the acceleration of the women’s game through its landmark 2017-25 Women’s Plan. In total 2.4 million women and girls are playing rugby at all levels, accounting for more than a quarter (26 per cent) of players globally and an increase in player numbers of 60 per cent since 2013.
In an important step towards gender equality in the region, Oceania Rugby and UN Women signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2017. The partnership has seen both organisations use their shared mandates and influence to work together on activities that promote gender balance and challenge social norms through sport.
As part of its commitment to promoting an equal playing field, Oceania Rugby oversaw an increase in mixed-gender Get Into Rugby festivals in 2017, driving forward rugby's message of a game for all. The Malaita Festival in the Solomon Islands recorded close to 800 participants, while 3,000 children were involved in the Crest West Kids festival in Fiji.
The latest figures also further demonstrate the youth appeal of a sport that is increasingly attracting new players and fans due to its character-building and inclusive values. Coupled with record growth of its fan base to 338 million worldwide and a social media following of eight million across all World Rugby social and digital platforms, 2017 has been a ground-breaking year. And with more than US$1 million earmarked for rugby projects in more than 40 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) in this first year of new Olympic Solidarity cycle, almost matching in one year the results over four years of the previous cycle, this growth looks set to continue.
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “2017 was a fantastic year for Oceania Rugby on and off the field. It was particularly pleasing to see Get Into Rugby reaching even more young people in new territories in the region and seeing rugby adopted as part of the national PE curriculum in all schools in Fiji.
“In a record-breaking Women’s Rugby World Cup year, women and girls accounted for more than a quarter of players globally and 39 per cent of Get Into Rugby participants. Oceania Rugby’s partnership with UN Women is a hugely significant step in encouraging and securing the increasing female participation in the region.”
Bruce Cook, General Manager - Oceania Rugby, said "Oceania Rugby is excited about the evolvement of the Get Into Rugby programme in our region. The Get Into Rugby programme is the major contributor to the continuous growth of rugby population through players, coaches, volunteers and fans. It creates opportunities for everyone and anyone to enjoy the game and also create pathways for everyone to achieve their dream of playing rugby at club, national or international level."
Get Into Rugby promotes the character-building values of the game and allows children to experience rugby in a safe and progressive environment. Launched in 2013, a total of 5,948,556 participants have progressed through the programme.
The dedicated 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.