The report claims that women's rugby is now played by 200,000 players in 110 countries - in both cases probably a bit of an underestimate, but rather more accurate than most IRB data on the subject in recent years. The report highlights how much interest and enthusiasm for the game has increased in recent years - but that there are still perception problems that get in the way of the game's expansion. One problem is that women's rugby tends to be seen as a financial burden by many in the game - even though research shows that, in fact, women's sport is a major missed commercial opportunity.
Interestingly (because this blog has been banging on about it for years) the report also specifically looks at U12 girls' rugby, and whether there should be more girls-only rugby at that age (rather than forcing girls to play mixed rugby).
It is no surprise to see that over the next five years- which takes us up to 2016 - the IRB's main thrust will be sevens, developing elite women's programmes in all Unions, with the aim of increasing player numbers. In fact there are some really ambitious targets for 2016...
- 400,000 players
- Women's rugby in every Union, with women's rugby represented on all Unions, regional bodies, and the IRB
- An official XVs calendar from 2012
- Women's sevens World Series by 2013
- Age grade regional (ie. continental) sevens tournaments
- Women's sevens at the Youth Olympics in 2014
- Women's rugby to be a "commercially viable product" by 2014, with increased TV coverage
Half of the teams for the Olympics will be the various 2015 regional champions - but the other six teams will be selected via a worldwide qualification process, so in theory there might be only one European team in Rio... or there might be as many as seven!
Finally, from the end of this year, it is intended that there will be official rankings for teams both at sevens and fifteens... which should be interesting.