Major Initiative Launched to Boost Rugby Growth in Europe

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Major Initiative Launched to Boost Rugby Growth in Europe
The IRB has partnered with FIRA-AER and the RFU to deliver a ground-breaking project that will drive Rugby growth in 17 European national Unions ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015.

A key component of the IRB’s IMPACT Beyond 2015 programme, the Unity Project will see two RFU constituent bodies pairing with a Union selected by the IRB and FIRA-AER to work with over the next three years.

The European nations and their allocated RFU constituent bodies will work together to devise and deliver development plans to support the growth of the Game. This support could come in the form of helping to train ground staff and facilities managers, through to working on grassroots coach and player development pathways.

The IRB Member Unions and RFU constituent bodies participating in the Unity Project are:

Belgium – Eastern Counties + Notts, Lincs & Derby
Spain – Durham County + Northumberland
Poland – Surrey + Sussex
Portugal – Cheshire + Lancashire
Russia – Berkshire + Middlesex
Romania – Oxfordshire + Gloucestershire
Czech Republic – North Midlands + Staffordshire
Hungary – East Midlands + Cambridge University
Germany – Hampshire + Hertfordshire
Georgia – Kent + Essex
Switzerland – Dorset & Wiltshire + Somerset
Ukraine – Leicestershire + Warwickshire
Netherlands – Cornwall + Devon
Sweden, Denmark & Norway – Cumbria + Yorkshire
Serbia – Buckinghamshire – Oxford University

With eight European teams guaranteed a place at England 2015, FIRA-AER Unions will have the largest representation at Rugby’s global showcase event, while the region boasts more than three million active players, the largest regional playing representation. The Unity Project will ensure that the Region maximises the opportunity of hosting one of the world’s largest sports events.

Speaking at the launch, IRB Chief Executive Brett Gosper said: “IMPACT Beyond 2015 is the most comprehensive and far reaching programme for a Rugby World Cup with the aim of attracting and sustaining more than one million new players, coaches, officials and volunteers to the Game by 2016.”

“We are excited to be collaborating with the RFU, FIRA-AER and UK Sport on the Unity Project, a programme that will drive significant playing, administration and development benefits for 17 European Rugby Unions.”

“Rugby World Cup is the financial engine for the global development of the Game and this project underscores our mission of welcoming and sustaining more men, women and children to play and support Rugby worldwide.”

This year the IRB will invest £1.4 million in Rugby development projects across Europe. The Unity Project forms part of the extensive legacy initiatives currently being undertaken by the RFU to ensure that the Rugby World Cup hosting opportunity is maximised and sustained across the Game.

RFU Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “We are honoured and excited to be working with these 17 countries on such an interesting and exciting project. Through the Unity Project we hope to work with the countries to capitalise on opportunities presented by Rugby World Cup 2015 to build a lasting legacy for Rugby across Europe.”

Commenting on FIRA-AER’s involvement in the project, FIRA-AER President Octavian Morariu, said: “With Rugby participation and interest enjoying unprecedented growth across Europe and FIRA-AER and the IRB committed to advancing growth, the Unity Project will be highly instrumental in helping us strengthen and support our Unions.”

Liz Nicoll, Chief Executive of UK Sport, added: “UK Sport is proud to be providing the technical leadership and advice on international development for the Unity Project. It’s good to see the RFU using its major event platform to inspire community participation on a global level, building a lasting legacy for Rugby World Cup 2015.”

With Rugby World Cup 2015 preparations continuing at pace official Supporter Tour packages are now on sale enabling fans from across Europe and around the world to plan their England 2015 experience. Further information can be found at

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About the International Rugby Board (IRB): The IRB is the global governing body for the sport of Rugby Union with more than six million men, women and children playing the Game across 119 national Member Unions affiliated to the IRB through six Regional Associations. Headquartered in Dublin the IRB drives development, investment and regulation of a sport that is experiencing unprecedented growth in participation, profile and interest. Among its portfolio of major international tournaments and events are Rugby World Cup, Women’s Rugby World Cup, HSBC Sevens World Series, Women’s Sevens World Series and the IRB Junior World Championship.

About Rugby World Cup: Rugby World Cup is the financial engine behind unprecedented investment and growth in Rugby worldwide. The net Rugby World Cup surplus from the commercial success of France 2007 and New Zealand 2011 has enabled the International Rugby Board to invest more than £150 million in the Game between 2009 and 2012 and commit an anticipated injection of more than £180 million between 2013 and 2016 to underwrite a large range of major funding initiatives including annual national Union grants and strategic investments focusing on growing participation and increasing competition across all 119 national Member Unions affiliated to the IRB.

About FIRA-AER: FIRA-AER is the Regional Association responsible for governance, development and tournaments in Europe. It currently has 38 Member Unions affiliated to the IRB and with 3.1 million players, enjoys 46 per cent of the world playing population. Its flagship event is the European Nations Cup, which this year will deliver at least two qualifiers to Rugby World Cup 2015.

About the Rugby Football Union (RFU): The Rugby Football Union is the national governing body for Rugby Union in England and supports participants and fans from the grassroots to the national team. For more information visit

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