Rugby: Algeria, Burundi Become Full Members Of International Federation

A picture of rugby balls taken in Sydney, New Zealand on November 5, 2020. Saeed KHAN / AFP

 

World Rugby’s reach across Africa has increased as Algeria and Burundi become full members of the International Federation.

This follows the approval of the two countries’ membership at the virtual meeting of the World Rugby Council held on Wednesday.

World Rugby Chairman, Sir Bill Beaumont said, “We are very pleased to welcome Algeria and Burundi as full members, reflecting their commitment and progress in achieving the relevant criteria, thanks to the many talented coaches, administrators, and volunteers involved in growing the sport.

“We are dedicated to the sustainable global growth of our sport, combined with strong governance and there is no doubt that Africa is a key region with huge potential for the future development of rugby.”

“Africa is home to the current men’s Rugby World Cup winners and we will continue to work closely with Rugby Africa to ensure we provide emerging unions such as Algeria and Burundi with continuous support and a solid framework to further accelerate the growth of the sport across the region,” he added

Both nations were successful after achieving all the necessary criteria and their elevation to full member status saw World Rugby’s membership stand at 128, including 109 full members and 19 associate members.

The announcement comes after the launch of the global body’s new Strategic Plan 2021-25 in April, which provides a framework for the continued development and expansion of rugby, supporting unions and regions in building capacity and capability, as the international federation strives to continue the journey towards becoming a global sport for all.

In his reaction, President of Rugby Africa, Khaled Babbou, said, “I am delighted to welcome the Burundian and Algerian rugby unions as full members of World Rugby, bringing the total number of African member unions of World Rugby to 20.

“Rugby in Africa is growing rapidly and our strategic focus on youth and women’s rugby is evidence of this dynamic growth.”

“In 2020, we recorded more than 350,000 registered female players in Africa, up from 50,000 in 2012. This is the result of a firm collective commitment from all African unions. I wish to congratulate Mr Albert Havyarimana, President of the Fédération Burundaise de Rugby and Mr Abdelkader Sofian Ben Hassen, President of the Fédération Algérienne de Rugby for their dedication and relentless efforts culminating in this recognition today.

“Both countries are in the running for Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification for the first time in their history and the entire African rugby family wishes them good luck in this new chapter,” Babbou added.

Burundi currently has 2,750 registered players and has been an associate member of World Rugby since 2004, while Algeria has over 80 men’s and 40 women’s teams and became an associate member in 2019.

Both countries will enter the qualification journey for Rugby World Cup 2023 as they are set to compete in the Rugby Africa Cup 2021.

The competition begins with a repechage event in June before the group phase sees four pools of three teams each playing a round-robin tournament at a single venue per pool.

Burundi will compete in the Rugby Africa Cup repechage in Burkina Faso from 5-13 June which also includes Burkina Faso and Cameroon.

The winner of the repechage will join Rugby Africa Cup Pool D in Tunisia in July together with Tunisia and Zimbabwe, and Algeria will play in the Rugby Africa Cup Pool C in Kampala against Ghana and hosts Uganda from 10-18 July.

The best two teams from each pool will qualify for the Rugby Africa Cup 2022, which serves as the final round of the Rugby World Cup 2023 qualifier for Africa.

The eventual winner of the Rugby Africa Cup in August 2022 will qualify for RWC 2023 as Africa 1, entering group A alongside hosts France, while the runner-up will enter the final qualification tournament for another chance at qualifying.

Increasing the reach and diversity of the international federation’s membership represents a key element of World Rugby’s global growth strategy, ensuring that upon meeting the relevant criteria unions are provided with a framework and support to continue their growth and development as part of the World Rugby family.

Both the Fédération Algérienne de Rugby and the Fédération Burundaise de Rugby are full members of Rugby Africa and have sustainable women’s rugby and development programmes in place as they continue to grow as rugby nations.

World Rugby, Unions Confirm Revised Programme For Test Matches

A picture of rugby balls taken in Sydney, New Zealand on November 5, 2020. Saeed KHAN / AFP

 

A strong revised programme of men’s test matches is set to take place in July after all unions and World Rugby agreed a modified schedule within the existing window.

The revisions have been made to recognise an ongoing and complex global COVID-19 picture with the aim to limit the further impact.

The British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa headlines a busy July programme that will see 25 of the top 30 ranked unions in action with several hosting or being hosted for the first time since the pandemic began, including world champions South Africa and Rugby World Cup 2019 hosts Japan.

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to cause disruption, the underpinning principle for the schedule was the fixtures agreed in San Francisco in 2017.

Where it was not possible or practical to honour that schedule, the hosting rights were reversed with key arrangements met.

Where this contingency has not been possible for COVID-19 reasons, World Rugby has facilitated discussions to confirm an alternative schedule for teams comprising a minimum of two matches for unions who sought replacement fixtures.

This means that Argentina, Japan, US, and Canada will now travel to the UK and Ireland, New Zealand will host tests against Fiji, and Georgia travel to South Africa.

The Samoa versus Tonga Rugby World Cup 2023 qualifier will also be hosted over two legs in New Zealand, creating a Pacific hub in the country across the July window. RWC 2023 qualifiers will also continue in Europe and get underway in Africa and South America.

Additionally, following the announcement of increased high-performance support funding for RWC 2021 qualified and qualifier tests, World Rugby continues to be in discussion with unions regarding confirmation of a women’s test programme that will boost preparation for next year’s tournament.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said, “This has taken a monumental effort from all concerned. While there is light at the end of the tunnel in respect to COVID-19 in many nations, the challenges continue to be present, dynamic and impactful and therefore, I would like to thank the unions, their respective governments, broadcast and commercial partners and players for their flexibility and full commitment to the process.

“Fans around the world can now look forward to an exciting bumper schedule of men’s test matches involving at least 25 teams, which will be a welcome sight for everyone. The road to Rugby World Cup 2023 also continues with key qualifiers for Samoa and Tonga and, of course, we are anticipating a fascinating British and Irish Lions series.”

World Rugby Vice-Chairman, Bernard Laporte, also said, “Fans from all over the world will rejoice with this window of international rugby.

“I am delighted that match-ups between northern and southern hemisphere teams can finally take place, this will act as a prelude to the exciting Rugby World Cup that we are all looking forward to in 2023.”

“World Rugby and unions will continue to monitor the dynamic COVID-19 situation closely and respond if necessary, while any revisions to the November international programme will be confirmed in due course. World Rugby will also maintain its high-performance support for emerging nations ahead of the July tests,” he added.

“Confirmation of the programme of July tests is the culmination of a considerable amount of detailed consultation and planning across the respective unions,” said World Rugby Chief Executive, Alan Gilpin.

“It is also a reflection of the strong collaboration across the game that characterises our drive to strengthen engagement with all stakeholders to deliver a more aligned, meaningful and effective men’s international calendar beyond Rugby World Cup 2023,” he added.

World Rugby continues to lead and facilitate focused and productive discussions with all stakeholders regarding the establishment of a globally integrated international calendar following Rugby World Cup 2023.

International Rugby Players and the respective national leagues are central contributors within the dedicated working groups.

Through these discussions, the sport is united in the mission to optimise the calendar for players, the international and club game.

France Winger Villiere To Undergo Surgery And Miss Six Nations

Toulon’s French wing Gabin Villiere (R) celebrates with teammates at the end of the French Top 14 rugby union match between RC Toulon and Racing 92 at the Mayol stadium in Toulon, on March 6, 2021. Christophe SIMON / AFP

 

France winger Gabin Villiere will miss the last three rounds of the Six Nations after injuring a hand playing in the Top 14, his club Toulon said on Sunday.

Toulon said Villiere would undergo surgery later Sunday and be out for at least six weeks.

He sustained the injury as Toulon beat Racing 92 25-21 on Saturday evening. Villiere scored his team’s only try after 14 minutes and completed the match.

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Villiere started both games as France opened the Six Nations with victories over Italy and Ireland.

He will miss the visit to England on March 13 and the home game against leaders Wales on March 20 as well as the home game against Scotland, postponed after a coronavirus outbreak in the French camp. Villiere was one of the players to test positive.

Rugby World Cup Host Selection Journey Begins

A file photo of the Rugby World Cup.

 

The process to determine future hosts of the men and women’s Rugby World Cups have officially kicked off with the start of the dialogue phase, enabling interested nations to start preparing bids that are great for hosts and the sport.

World Rugby is running an innovative integrated process to determine hosts of the 2025- and 2029-women’s events, and the 2027- and 2031-men’s events. The approach will provide the sport with hosting and revenue certainty for the game over the next 10 years, in line with the ‘game-changer’ objectives of its new strategic plan.

With collaboration and transparency at the heart of the process, the three phases – Dialogue, Candidate and Evaluation – will, for the first time, facilitate bespoke bids that optimise the objectives of the hosts and the global development of the sport.

Underscoring World Rugby’s emphasis on transparency, the international federation’s Council will select the four future hosts at its Annual Meeting in May 2022 via an open electronic vote after considering a risk-based evaluation, rather than a recommendation, setting new standards in best-practice.

According to World Rugby, multi-nation bids are being welcomed.

World Rugby has paved the way for interested nations to enter the process with a running start, having engaged extensively with several member unions during a ‘Pre-Dialogue’ phase that has been designed to optimise knowledge and information transfer and therefore minimise overall bid costs.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont welcomed the milestone: “Today represents an important milestone in the future of the sport and is a positive way to accelerate into 2021. We are hugely encouraged by both the interest and level of conversations to date, which reflects the attractiveness of this new approach.

“Rugby World Cup is all about unity and this process marks a bold, best-practice approach for the sport. By awarding four hosts at the same time, the sport will have long-term strategic certainty, enabling us to advance commercial and broadcast partnerships and maximise revenue for reinvestment across our unions and the wider game.

“It is also an accessible and inclusive process. It is important for everyone that the costs of bidding are minimised and therefore by jointly building bespoke bids we can ensure an approach that is good for nations and good for rugby, maximising participation, societal and economic returns for all.”

The last men’s Rugby World Cup in 2019 attracted the biggest-ever domestic broadcast audience for a rugby match of more than 54 million and a participation boost of over 750,000, while a recent Nielsen study confirmed it delivered a significant boost to national pride. Above all, it was a special event that united a nation through rugby, friendship, and celebration, delivering record social, economic and sporting benefits.

Rugby World Cup 2023 is being hosted by France and preparations are on track for a spectacular event for teams and fans.

Pools Confirmed For Rugby World Cup 2023

Caption: Rugby World Cup 2023 Pools.                                                 Image courtesy: World Rugby

 

Preparations for the 2023  Rugby World Cup in France marked an important milestone today with confirmation of the pools for the 10th edition of the pinnacle competition in men’s 15s rugby.

The draw hosted in Paris was opened by World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont and French President Emmanuel Macron as France prepares to deliver a landmark event for players, fans, the host nation and the rugby community.

Confirmation of the pools means that teams and fans can begin to plan their Rugby World Cup 2023 adventure.

Rugby World Cup 2023 – POOLS

Pool A: New Zealand, France, Italy, Americas 1, Africa 1

Pool B: South Africa, Ireland, Scotland, Asia/Pacific 1, Europe 2

Pool C: Wales, Australia, Fiji, Europe 1, Final Qualifier Winner

Pool D: England, Japan, Argentina, Oceania 1, Americas 2

Women’s Rugby World Cup To Increase From 12 To 16 Teams From 2025

A photo of World Rugby

 

World Rugby has confirmed that the women’s edition of the Rugby World Cup will expand to 16 teams from 2025 onwards.

The landmark decision, taken by the Rugby World Cup Board earlier this year, confirms World Rugby’s commitment to accelerating the development of the women’s game globally through its transformational women’s strategic plan of 2017-25.

With women’s rugby interest and participation going from strength to strength, the decision supports a core pillar of the plan in increasing the global competitiveness of women’s international rugby, providing the opportunity for more teams to be more competitive on the biggest stages.

Women’s rugby has experienced record growth in recent years, with women and girls now accounting for 28% of the global playing population.

Interest in Rugby World Cup hosting continues to grow ahead of the formal process beginning in February 2021 and today’s announcement follows recent confirmation of key elements related to the evaluation, publication and voting process for the 2025 and 2029 editions, which will be awarded at the same time as the men’s in May 2022.

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Rugby World Cup continues to go from strength to strength and New Zealand 2021 is set to feature a host of exciting new format changes which prioritise player welfare and event promotion.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said “Women’s rugby is the single greatest opportunity to grow the sport globally. In 2017 we set out an ambitious eight-year plan to accelerate the development of women in rugby, with a core pillar focusing on high-performance competition and an ambition to improve and expand the number of teams competing in pinnacle events. We have seen in recent years that more teams are making a statement at international level and unions are continuing to develop their women’s high-performance programmes.

“This is a milestone moment for the women’s game, expansion of the Rugby World Cup opens additional aspirational and inspirational playing pathway opportunities for unions at the highest level of the game and creates an added incentive for unions worldwide to continue to invest and grow in their women’s programmes,” Beaumont concluded.

Official Gilbert Rugby World Cup Match Ball Design Unveiled

The official Gilbert Rugby World Cup Match Ball design was unveiled on November 17, 2020.

 

The World Rugby and Gilbert today unveiled the official Rugby World Cup 2021 match ball design which embodies the unique Rugby World Cup 2021 brand identity.

Taking inspiration from the vitality and connectivity of the RWC 2021 brand, the ball design works seamlessly to showcase unstoppable energy, with key single colour focal points on either end to encourage player performance.

In addition, the official Gilbert Rugby World Cup 2021 ball features unique elements from the tournament’s striking brand look and feel which integrates the energetic RipoRipo graphic.

The RipoRipo carries cultural significance in New Zealand, where the 2021 tournament will be hosted, representing the water and the land.

Gilbert have a long-standing affiliation with the women’s editions of Rugby World Cups, having supplied the match balls to every tournament since 1991.

The 2021 tournament edition will be the first time ever that Gilbert have offered a full range of replica and supporter products to commemorate what will be an unforgettable tournament.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “As anticipation builds ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2021 Draw, which is less than three days away, we are delighted to mark another important milestone with the unveiling of the official Rugby World Cup 2021 ball with our partner Gilbert, a longstanding supporter of the women’s game.”

Richard Gray, CEO Commercial at Gilbert Rugby, added: “We are delighted to renew our long and successful relationship with Rugby World Cup and to extend our support of women’s rugby.”

“The 2021 tournament promises to be an unforgettable experience and we are excited to today launch the official ball design – celebrating New Zealand’s unique rugby history and heritage.

“Having supported women’s Rugby World Cup since 1991, for the first time ever, everyone at Gilbert is proud to offer an unprecedented full range of products for supporters for the 2021 edition.”

The Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand will be contested by 12 teams and kicks off on 18 September with the winner to be crowned at Eden Park on 16 October.

2021 Rugby World Cup Qualifying Tournament Postponed

A photo of World Rugby

 

World Rugby and Rugby Europe have taken a decision to postpone the Rugby World Cup 2021 European qualification tournament that was scheduled to take place on 5, 12, and 19 December. 2020

The tournament is due to feature Ireland, Italy and Scotland and the winner of the postponed Rugby Europe Women’s Championship.

With the COVID-19 situation in Europe presenting continued travel and quarantine challenges for some teams, the decision was made to postpone and identify an optimal opportunity for the tournament to be rescheduled in early 2021.

World Rugby and Rugby Europe continue to consult with unions and Six Nations Rugby Limited regarding a window that provides a fair opportunity to deliver the Europe qualifier, with the winner qualifying directly for Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand. The runner-up will progress to the final qualification tournament to be held in 2021.

An announcement regarding the rescheduling of the tournament will be confirmed in due course.

World Rugby Announces Match Officials For Tri-Nations 2020

A photo of World Rugby

 

World Rugby has announced match officials appointments for the Tri-Nations 2020, which kicks off in Australia on 31 October.

The three-nation championship featuring Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand will be played across six weekends, starting in Sydney with the third Bledisloe Cup match between Australia and New Zealand and concluding with Australia versus Argentina on 5 December.

Across both hemispheres, appointments for the October to December temporary window have been made on a regional basis, recognising the challenges of ongoing national COVID-19 travel and quarantine measures.

In the case of Tri-Nations, the quarantining procedures and need to maintain a bubble means that nation neutrality is not possible, and the team of match officials will come from Australia and New Zealand with Ben O’Keeffe, Paul Williams, Angus Gardner and Nic Berry refereeing. All coaches are supportive of this necessary position.

Chair of the World Rugby Match Officials Selection Committee Graham Mourie said: “The Tri-Nations will be a fantastic spectacle and full credit to everyone from the respective unions and SANZAAR for tackling a tricky environment to make it happen.

“As with the tests in the northern hemisphere, we have selected a regional team of match officials in recognition of ongoing and necessary restrictions in relation to COVID-19. The team will be subject to regular testing and hygiene measures in line with World Rugby’s return-to-play protocols.

“The lockdown period provided an opportunity to further focus on key game management areas while maintaining fitness standards and the team selected for the Tri-Nations are in excellent shape and looking forward to the challenge ahead.”

Australia, New Zealand Rugby Sevens Cancelled Over COVID-19

An ambulance is seen outside one of nine public housing estates locked down due to a spike in COVID-19 coronavirus numbers in Melbourne on July 6, 2020. – Australia will effectively seal off the state of Victoria from the rest of the country, authorities said on July 6, announcing unprecedented measures to tackle a worrying surge in coronavirus cases. William WEST / AFP.

 

The Australian and New Zealand legs of the 2021 sevens rugby world series were cancelled over the coronavirus on Tuesday as the sport’s problems deepened less than a year from the postponed Tokyo Olympics.

The demise of the two tournaments, slated for January 23-24 and 30-31 respectively, means the first four events of the upcoming season have been axed after Dubai and Cape Town went in July.

The sevens circuit was halted in March by the pandemic, with the 2020 season’s remaining five tournaments — including the flagship Hong Kong leg — eventually cancelled.

To bolster struggling unions, World Rugby announced a $2.5 million fund to help teams that have already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics next July.

New Zealand Rugby said the latest cancellations were due to the “continued global uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic”.

World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper said it was “disappointing not be able to go ahead with the series events in New Zealand and Australia.”

“We look forward to returning to Sydney and Hamilton in future,” he added.

World Rugby is carrying out “collaborative contingency planning” for the 2021 series, and looking for “supplementary competition opportunities”, a statement said.

AFP

International Rugby Action Set To Resume In October 2020

International Rugby Action Set To Resume In October

 

International Rugby action is set to take place later this year after the World Rugby Council have approved a temporary adjustment to Regulation 9 to accommodate the release of international players for revised 2020 windows.

The adjustment to the regulation has been approved as a temporary measure to mitigate the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on global rugby activities and provides a welcome boost for players, teams, fans, and broadcast and commercial partners.

The approval follows an extensive and productive dialogue between the sport’s major stakeholders, balancing the interests of the international game, the professional club game and player welfare to determine a schedule that will optimise the immediate financial recovery and funding of the sport at all levels.

The windows approved by the World Rugby Council for player release are the temporary global player release window for 2020: 24 October – first weekend of December and temporary Rugby Championship window for 2020: 7 November – second weekend of December.

The temporary global window will accommodate the completion of the 2020 men’s and women’s Six Nations Championships on 24 and 31 October, a rest weekend on 7 November and four consecutive rounds of international matches.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to impact transcontinental travel and entry requirements, on an exceptional basis, The Rugby Championship 2020 will take place over a reduced six-week period between 7 November and the second week in December with SANZAAR having asked New Zealand to host. Special measures will need to be implemented to deal with any government-required isolation period prior to the start of the competition.

The current Regulation 9 windows will return to normal after the conclusion of the temporary calendar.

All parties, including unions, club competitions and players, remain committed to continued dialogue regarding the long-term harmonisation of the international calendar for the betterment of all.

The rescheduling of the domestic, European and international calendars will accommodate the ability for the professional clubs to have access to their star southern hemisphere international players for the completion of the postponed and rescheduled 2019/20 seasons at a time in which they would have ordinarily been on international duty in August and September.

The process also reflects the ambition to minimise the impact on the EPCR and English Premiership finals matches.

World Rugby is also liaising with emerging unions to explore where it can assist with a programme of fixtures where COVID-19 restrictions permit.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “The global COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented in its impact on society and sport and throughout this process, all parties have sought to deliver the best possible outcome to support the interests of international and club rugby and the players.

“Agreement and approval of this schedule is exciting for players and fans and an important step in supporting our unions in mitigating financial impact and optimising the sport’s return from the pandemic in an equitable way.

“These matches will be greatly anticipated by all, and I would like to thank unions, the international and club competitions and players for their input and the fans for their patience as we have sought to get international rugby back up and running.”

World Rugby Vice-Chairman Bernard Laporte said: “Today represents an important day for our sport as the first steps towards recovery from the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“This has been no small effort and there have been some robust conversations, but the position approved by Council today represents the best interests of the global game and I look forward to seeing the world’s best players doing what they do best back on the international stage.”

USA Rugby Coach Slams Team After England Rout

England’s flanker Lewis Ludlam (R) runs to evade US flanker John Quill (L) during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool C match between England and the United States at the Kobe Misaki Stadium in Kobe on September 26, 2019. Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

 

USA coach Gary Gold described his team’s 45-7 rout at the hands of England as a “calamity in Kobe” and vowed to bounce back after “letting themselves down pretty badly”.

The Eagles shipped seven tries to Eddie Jones’s side at the Kobe Misaki Stadium on Thursday and only avoided the ignominy of a shut-out with a score after the final gong.

“I feel we let ourselves down badly today,” a disconsolate Gold told reporters after the match.

“It was a bit of a calamity in Kobe tonight.”

The South African coach said his team had been outclassed in every department of the game and pinpointed the “outstanding” England playmaker George Ford as a major thorn in their side.

“We were taught a lesson today. We lost in every single aspect of the game, lost line-outs, defence and most importantly lost the kicking game,” rued Gold.

While the Eagles were very unlikely to beat a team ranked 10 places ahead of them in the world pecking order, they hoped to give a better account of themselves.

“We’re a better rugby team than that. Not as good as England but we’re better than that,” he said.

The USA did not help their cause by losing John Quill for the last 10 minutes of the game after he saw the first red card of the tournament for a reckless shoulder charge to the head of England’s Owen Farrell.

Gold had no complaints, saying the rules were clear.

“You are not allowed to make contact with the head, and you have to use your arms (in the tackle) — he didn’t,” said the coach.

Life does not get much easier for the USA in Pool C, considered this World Cup’s ‘group of death’, as they play France on October 2.

Gold said both fullback Will Hooley, who was stretchered off the field to hospital, and prop David Ainuu, who limped off with an ankle injury, were unlikely to recover for the French clash.

“Our reaction will define us. We’ll show up to work tomorrow,” said Eagles skipper Blaine Scully.

“While we are bitterly disappointed in the performance and result, I’m still confident in this group of players,” added Gold. “I know they are better players than that.”

AFP