Gender neutral change for Rugby World Cup tournaments

World Rugby has announced that its flagship 15s and sevens Rugby World Cup properties will no longer include gender in their titles, furthering its commitment to equality and brand consistency across its portfolio.

In a first for a major sporting federation, the women’s designation will be dropped from Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand which will now be named Rugby World Cup 2021, starting the global roll out.

The ground-breaking move will 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. It is underpinned by World Rugby’s key strategic priority to advance gender balance at all levels of rugby under its ambitious global action plan, ‘Accelerating the Global Development of Women in Rugby 2017-2025’.

This announcement follows the unveiling of World Rugby’s landmark new ‘Women in Rugby’ brand identity and global campaign, ‘Try and Stop Us’, which was launched in May in partnership with member unions to drive greater growth and investment in the women’s game. The powerful campaign uses striking imagery and inspirational stories to showcase 15 unstoppable women and girls in rugby from around the world, who have challenged barriers to participation and used rugby to overcome life’s hurdles.

Moreover, the announcement comes after the implementation of transformational governance reform which has resulted in the composition of the international federation’s council moving from zero female members to 17 in a little over a year, furthering women in rugby and the women’s rugby agenda.

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.”

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.”

World Rugby chief marketing officer Marissa Pace added: “World Rugby is clearly committed to equality in our sport and we decided that we no longer need to identify our marquee events with a gender bias from a brand level. Our three World Cup events are the pinnacle of international rugby and we wanted the focus to be on the event and the athletes, not their gender. We’re very proud to be leading the sports industry in this space.”

Looking ahead to Rugby World Cup 2021, New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew commented: “This is great leadership from World Rugby at a time that rugby is eager to embrace and celebrate true inclusivity and equality across the game. We are delighted that New Zealand is hosting Rugby World Cup 2021, and we look forward to the world’s best teams in women’s international rugby, coming to our shores and taking part in a fantastic display of rugby.”

The expansion of women’s rugby continues to exceed expectations worldwide, with the sport experiencing unprecedented global growth. 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. 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 400m fanbase are female.