Rugby winning converts in unlikely places

2011-04-09 18:43

Rugby’s global landscape looks set for a massive change in the coming years, according to a report released this week.

The report shows that more people play the game in cricket-mad Sri Lanka, which occupies a lowly 42nd spot in International Rugby Board (IRB) rankings, than in the land of two-times World Cup champions, Australia.

The report, compiled by the Centre for the International Business of Sport in the UK, also shows that the number of people taking up the game in Africa, from Tunisia to Nigeria and Madagascar to Uganda, has grown by 33% since South Africa’s Springboks won the 2007 World Cup in France.

More than 80% of the continent’s players are under the age of 20.

More than five million people in more than 117 countries play the game, with emerging markets such as China, Pakistan, Iran and Argentina showing the most growth.

Rugby development remains a hot topic in South Africa, but the country lies second behind England on the global list of player numbers, with Sri Lanka not only ahead of Australia but Argentina as well.

The inclusion of Sevens Rugby in the 2016 Olympic Games is seen as one of the main reasons for the sport’s rise in popularity across the world, with the likes of Kenya and Russia (who have qualified for this year’s World Cup in New Zealand) boasting competitive teams in the abbreviated version of the game.

In Asia, Japan’s hosting of the 2019 Rugby World Cup has made rugby more popular in places where the sport did not exist previously: China, Iran and Pakistan.

IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “These are exciting times for rugby, with strong growth and participation worldwide. We are also noticing the boost that the Olympic Games inclusion has given rugby as we count down to Rio (de Janeiro, Brazil) 2016.”

» With 150 days until kickoff, Rugby World Cup organisers have urged fans to be on the alert for fake ticketing websites and email scams.

Said Mamodupi Mohlala, commissioner at the National Consumer Commission: “Big events such as the Rugby World Cup 2011 are irresistible to rip-off merchants.

“The global nature of the internet makes it easy for fraudsters to target consumers across borders.

“Many of these scammers have sophisticated websites and systems in place and trick consumers into believing that they are dealing with authorised ticket sellers. The worst-case scenario here is that people travel all the way to New Zealand to discover their tickets are not valid for any of the tournament matches.”

The official Rugby World Cup 2011 ticketing website is www.rugbyworldcup.com.

ruFor more details about travel and hospitality programmes, visit www.rth2011.com – MWP Media 

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