Harnessing record global growth and inspiring new audiences at the heart of World Rugby General Assembly agenda

The 12th World Rugby General Assembly kicked off in London this morning with harnessing record global growth, player welfare advances and development of the 2016-20 strategic plan the headline agenda topics.

With a very special and record-breaking Rugby World Cup reaching its climax, the 12th World Rugby General Assembly kicked off in London this morning with harnessing record global growth, player welfare advances and development of the 2016-20 strategic plan the headline agenda topics.

Delegates from World Rugby's 120 member unions, six regional associations, World Rugby Council and Executive Committee are attending the key biennial meeting, which brings together the global rugby family for two days of discussion, workshops and strategic planning.

The 2015 World Rugby General Assembly comes at a time when the sport is enjoying unprecedented global growth and profile with Rugby World Cup 2015 reaching and inspiring new audiences in record numbers as the largest-ever celebration of rugby.

With World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset attending the funeral of much-loved and respected colleague Beth Coalter, Vice-Chairman Oregan Hoskins opened the General Assembly and paid tribute to "a special women whose passion and drive was instrumental in rugby sevens' global success story."

After observing a recess as a mark of respect, Hoskins' address focused on the progress made over the last two years by a sport now played by a record 7.2 million men, women and children, and a business with an annual turnover of more than $1 billion, while looking ahead to the opportunities and challenges facing the game in a congested global sports and entertainment market.

Recognition was also given to World Rugby's investment strategy, funded by Rugby World Cup success, which has seen more than £350 million injected into the game at all levels between 2009 and 2016 and has also played a prominent role in closing the competition gap between the likes of Georgia, Fiji and Namibia and world's top-ranked teams at Rugby World Cup.

Hoskins said: "This is a pivotal and exciting time for our sport, following an unprecedented period of investment, growth and commercial success. We are presented with golden opportunities to grow participation, to grow audiences from the stadium to the armchair and to establish rugby as a truly global sport for all.

"We can reflect on a truly special and record-breaking Rugby World Cup 2015 that will accelerate profile and participation growth, and look forward to a ground-breaking Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan when Asia will play host to our showcase event for the first time, while we are already maximising the wonderful opportunity that Olympic Games inclusion has brought to our sport.

"We need to ensure from the stadium to the armchair that rugby continues to be compelling to play, watch and engage with. We also need to ensure as we grow that our participation strategies reach and inspire new boys and girls and that we continue to drive forward player welfare, integrity promotion and the fight against doping in sport. But rugby's future offers far more opportunities than challenges."

The General Assembly was opened by RFU President Jason Leonard on behalf of the host union.

Over the two days, delegates will consider the World Rugby strategic plan to re-calibrate and remodel a blueprint for growth and prosperity for the period 2016-20 having achieved and exceeded original goals. The forum will also consider the advances driven by World Rugby in the number one priority area of player welfare and consider how the game is played, packaged and promoted.

For more information, contact:

Dominic Rumbles

Head of Communications, World Rugby

T: +353-86-8520-826

E: dominic.rumbles@worldrugby.org

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