World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset is anticipating a ‘game-changing’ year for the sport.
Besides the inaugural edition of the new-look Vodacom Super Rugby competition in 2016, the game of sevens will make its debut at the Olympics in August, while the global qualification process for the 2019 World Cup in Japan will begin.
Lapasset said this year will also see World Rugby maintain its commitment to prioritising investment in player welfare, anti-doping and development, 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.
‘Preparation for the World Cup in Japan, the first time our showcase event has been staged in Asia, will continue to accelerate in 2016,' Lapasset added. 'This is a very exciting time for rugby in Japan following the feats of the national team at the 2015 World Cup 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 World Cup host.’
Reflecting on 2015, Lapasset said 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.’
Photo: Dave Rogers/World Rugby