World Rugby has announced that its flagship 15s and sevens Rugby World Cup tournaments will no longer include gender in their titles.
The body in charge of the sport says the move is to further its commitment to equality in the game.
It means the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand will now be named Rugby World Cup 2021, starting the gender-neutral roll out.
Why is this happening?
The move is a first for a major sporting federation and it is done in the hope it will help ensure that the competitions have equal billing from a brand perspective, regardless of whether the events feature men or women.
The purpose is to elevate the profile of the women’s game, while eliminating any inherent or perceived bias towards men’s only competitions and tournaments, which traditionally haven’t specified gender.
The decision to adopt a consistent approach to the naming of these events and tournaments was based on a recommendation brought before Council by the Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL) Board, according to a statement on World Rugby's website.
The announcement follows World Rugby's launch in May of its new 'Women in Rugby' brand identity and global campaign Try and Stop Us - to try and drive greater growth and investment in the women's game.
At the time of the launch, World Rugby also mirrored what UEFA and the English FA were doing with sponsorship rights by splitting them for men and women because the body said it believes women's rugby can attract big-name commercial partners in its own right.
Leading from the front
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “This announcement demonstrates our ongoing and unwavering commitment to advancing women in rugby both on and off the field in line with our ambitious strategic plan.
“Unintentional gender bias in sport is an ongoing issue. As a global sporting federation we need to be leading from the front on the issue of equality. By adopting gender balance in the naming of men’s and women’s Rugby World Cup competitions, we are setting new standards in equality in rugby,” he added.
World Rugby Women’s Advisory Committee Chair Serge Simon said: “This is much more than an initiative – it is the ultimate statement of equality and a first for sport. I am excited about this landmark decision, but this is the beginning of the journey. Together, we are working hard to do something very special for women, for the game.”
The announcement also comes as female rugby participation levels are at an all-time high with 2.7 million players globally – making up more than a quarter of the global playing population, according to World Rugby.
This includes a 28 per cent rise in registered players since 2017. For the second year running, more young girls have got into rugby globally than boys and more than 40 per cent of rugby’s 400 million fanbase are female.