Record numbers Get Into Rugby in 2017
- 9.1 million players globally, more than a quarter women and girls
- Over two million girls and boys participated in Get Into Rugby in 2017
- Rapid growth in Asia with 18 per cent increase in Get Into Rugby compared to 2016
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.
With rugby now played in more countries around the world than ever before, 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.
Asia continued to embrace the sport in 2017 as rugby fever maintained its grip on the continent in the lead up to Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan. With a total of 721,800 girls and boys taking part in the programme in 2017,
Asia Rugby boasted the highest number of Get Into Rugby participants of all the regions, with an 18 per cent increase on 2016. India, China and Japan were all represented in the top five performing unions, with China recording more than 100,000 new participants, a 204 per cent growth compared to 2016.
Asia Rugby also saw its first Get Into Rugby graduates make their international debuts in 2017, including more than 90 per cent of the players from Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Japan, the Philippines, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Laos, Sri Lanka, Thailand and UAE who took part in the Asia U17 Girls Sevens tournament in November, a qualifier for 2018 Youth Olympic Games.
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 worldwide and an increase in player numbers of 60 per cent since 2013.
In an historic year for women’s rugby in Asia, Hong Kong took part in its first ever Women’s Rugby World Cup, joining Japan to represent the continent in Ireland and helping to inspire future generations of women and girls to play rugby in Asia.
Project Asia 1 Million, which aims to attract one million new rugby participants by 2020 as part of the RWC 2019 Impact Beyond programme, underpinned the strong growth across the region. By the end of 2017, the project had reached 575,323 participants at all levels of the game and is expected to continue to grow in 2018 as more young people take up the sport ahead of Japan 2019, the biggest-ever rugby tournament to take place in Asia.
Aga Hussain President of Asia Rugby said: “The success of Project Asia 1 Million is indicative of the potential to establish Rugby as a sport of choice among the youth of Asia. Boys and girls love the game! Unions have taken Rugby to areas where the game was unknown a year or two ago. Player retention beyond RWC 2019 is a top priority for us and we are actively working with unions on the inclusion of Rugby in schools’ sports curricula.”
The latest figures 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: “It is an exciting time for Asia Rugby as the region prepares to host Rugby World Cup 2019, and the subsequent wider impact on players and fans in Asia is brilliant to see.
In 2017, Asia Rugby recorded the highest number of Get Into Rugby participants worldwide with over 720,000 taking part. Furthermore, Project Asia 1 Million pledges to continue this exceptional trend in the coming years, leaving a lasting legacy for Japan 2019.
“Particularly pleasing is the level of female participation both in Get Into Rugby and overall during a record-breaking Women’s Rugby World Cup year. China has recorded the largest number of new girls playing the game with 67,245 new participants in 2017, and there are now more than 2.4 million registered female players worldwide.”
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.