International Rugby Board

International Rugby Board

Infobox Organization
name = International Rugby Board

size = 170 px
motto =
type = Sports federation
formation = 1886
headquarters = Dublin, Ireland
membership = 115 unions
leader_title = Chairman
leader_name = Bernard Lapasset
The International Rugby Board (IRB) is the world governing and law-making body for the sport of rugby union, and previously for rugby football . It was founded in 1886 as the International Rugby Football Board (IRFB) by the unions of Scotland, Wales and Ireland. England originally refused to take part, but in 1890, it became the first non-founding union to become a member.cite web | work=Museum of Rugby | title=Short history of rugby |url=| accessdaymonth=14 July | accessyear=2006] cite web | work=Dallas RFC |title = History of Rugby |url=| accessdaymonth=14 July | accessyear=2006] The International Rugby Football Board changed its name to the International Rugby Board in 1997. The IRB's headquarters are located in Dublin, Ireland.cite web | work=International Rugby Board |title = IRB Organisation |url=| accessdaymonth=14 July | accessyear=2006]

The IRB has 96 full member Unions, 19 Associate members and six Regional Associations, with the 96 full member unions meeting bi-annually and Regional Associations organising regular meetings. The IRB organises some of the sport's international competitions, with the Rugby World Cup (occurring every four years) being the most popular and highest profit competition for the IRB, as seen by the £81.8 million (approximately US$150 million, 118 million, ¥17300 million) gross commercial income of the 2003 tournament.cite web | work=Rugby Football History |title = Rugby World Cup History |url=| accessdaymonth=14 July | accessyear=2006] The IRB also provides money to smaller nations, such as the Pacific Islands teams, who are unable to generate their own income.


Until 1885, the laws of rugby football were made by England, as the founder nation. However, following a disputed try in an international between Scotland and England, letters were exchanged, in which England claimed they made the laws, and the try should stand. In 1885, Scotland refused to play England. Following the dispute, the home unions of Scotland, Ireland and Wales founded the International Rugby Football Board. England refused to take part, stating that they should have greater representation, as they have more clubs.cite web | work=Rugby Football History |title = 1880s |url=| accessdaymonth=15 July | accessyear=2006] The England Union also refused to accept the IRFB as the recognised law maker of the game. This led to the IRFB taking the stance of member countries not playing England until they joined. In 1890, England joined the IRFB. The same year, the IRFB wrote the first international laws of rugby union.cite web | |title = History of the Game |url=,24.html| accessdaymonth=15 July | accessyear=2006]

In 1893, the IRFB was faced with the divide between amateurism and professionalism, which was nicknamed the "Great Schism". Following the introduction of working class men to the game in Northern England, clubs began paying "broken time" payments to players, due to the loss of earnings from playing on a Saturday.cite web | |title =1890s |url=| accessdaymonth=15 July | accessyear=2006] Cumberland County Union also complained of another club using monetary incentives to lure players, leading to the IRFB conducting an enquiry. The IRFB was warned by all the chief clubs in Lancashire and Yorkshire that any punishment would lead to the clubs seceding from the union. The debate of broken time payments ultimately led to the 22 leading clubs in Yorkshire and Lancashire to form the Northern Rugby Union, a sport today known as rugby league football.

It is thought that in the late 1950s the IRFB was presented with the ideas of a world championship.cite web | | title=The History of RWC |url=| accessdaymonth=28 July | accessyear=2006] In 1983 the New Zealand Rugby Union and Australian Rugby Union each proposed hosting such a tournament. The following year the board committed to conduct a feasibility study. A year later there was another meeting in Paris, and the Union subsequently voted on the idea. It was the South African Rugby Union's vote that proved to be crucial in setting up a tied vote, as they voted in favour, even though they knew they would be excluded. English and Welsh votes were then changed, and the vote was won 10 to 6.


The sport of rugby union has been played at the Summer Olympics on four occasions, with the last being in 1924. The winners, and thus the reigning champions, were the U.S. team. Rugby union made one more appearance as a demonstration event but was then removed from the Games. The IRB has most recently been very keen to see it return to the Games and is adamant that the sport (specifically referring to rugby sevens) satisfies every respect of the criteria set out in the Olympic Charter.

The main problem for reintroducing the 15-man game to the Olympics is the 7-day turnaround required by IRB regulations for players to rest between games. Since the Olympics only officially run for 16 days, with only slight expansions allowed to accommodate sports such as football, this effectively makes it impossible to conduct a 15s tournament within the current Olympic schedule. This limitation does not apply to sevens, as games last only 14 minutes (20 in championship finals) instead of the 80 minutes in the 15s game. All of the events in the current IRB Sevens World Series, which feature a minimum of 16 national teams, are conducted within a single weekend.

But in furthering the IRB cause, the International Rugby Board became an International Olympic Committee Recognised International Federation in 1995, marked by a ceremonial signing by President Juan Antonio Samaranch prior to a match between Wales and South Africa in Cardiff.cite web | | title=Rugby & The Olympic Games |url=| accessdaymonth=28 July | accessyear=2006]

The IRB cites rugby union's global participation, with men playing the game in well over 100 countries, with women playing in over 50 as well; the IRB's compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code; and that a rugby sevens tournament could be (and generally is) accommodated in one stadium and is relatively inexpensive to play. Not only is the sevens game successful in the context of the Sevens World Series and World Cup Sevens, it is also very successfully played in the Commonwealth Games; the sevens tournament at the 2006 Games in Melbourne set all-time attendance records for a sevens tournament.


The IRB have recently released £18.6 million of funding over three years for tier two nations Canada, the USA, Japan, Romania, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. Argentina will also receive additional support to enable it to retain its tier one status. The money, built up from successful World Cups, was released following a report commissioned by the IRB highlighting the growing disparity between tier one and tier two nations. (see [ IRB statement] ). This is in addition to the £10-12 million it normally gives out grants and tournament costs. The emphasis is on three areas infrastructure, high performance units and cross border competitions. Three new crossborder competitions involving Tier 2 nations were launched in 2006:
*The Pacific Nations Cup, a competition involving the full national teams of Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and Japan, plus New Zealand's "senior A" side, the Junior All Blacks and Australia A.
*The Pacific Rugby Cup, a competition similar to the Super 14 with two franchises each from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga
*The North America 4, a competition similar to the Pacific Rugby Cup, with two franchises each from Canada and the USA

It was announced in April 2006 that tier-3 rugby nations; Georgia, Portugal, Tunisia and Russia were identified as the key investment nations over the next three years. The program is designed to increase the competitiveness of international rugby union.

Executive Council

The Executive Council meets twice a year. It consists of eight Unions with two seats each: Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and France. Four unions have one seat each: Argentina, Canada, Italy and Japan. Six regional associations representing Europe, North America and the West Indies, South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania also have one seat each. With the Chairman and Vice Chairman, this adds up to a total of 28 members. The full membership meets at a General Meeting which is convened every two years. Regional meetings are held at regular intervals.

The current chairman of the IRB is Bernard Lapasset, previously president of the French Rugby Federation (FFR). He was elected new IRB chairmain following the Executive Council vote which took place on October 19 2007. His election became effective on 1 January 2008.

Past Chairmen

*Vernon Pugh, QC, was chairman of the IRB from 1994 to 2002.
*Syd Millar 2002 to 2007.
*Bernard Lapasset 2008-

Laws and regulations

The laws of rugby union are controlled by a standing Laws Committee, which is established by the IRB Council. The current chairman of the committee is Bill Beaumont. The Laws of the Game are formulated by the IRB, and are then circulated by the national Unions. The official laws of the game are written in English, French, Russian and Spanish. There are variations for under-19 and Sevens rugby. There are 21 regulations in total, these regulations range from definitions, eligibility, advertising, disciplinary, anti-doping and a number of other areas. The IRB also approves equipment, which are tested at an IRB Approved Testing House.

Experimental law variations

In 2006 the IRB initiated proposals for variations to the laws, which were formulated and trialled initially at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Further trials are set down for 2007 and 2008. The law variations aim to push the balance between defensive and attacking play more in favour of attacking play, and to reduce stoppages for penalties and infringements.


The IRB is compliant with the WADA code. The IRB anti doping programme includes testing at the under 19 and under 21 level, sevens and senior 15 a side. Testing is a mix of in-competition at IRB organised events, as well as out-of-competition testing, which can occur at any time. In 2003, World Cup year, the IRB member unions undertook approximately 3,000 tests.cite web | | title=IRB adopts WADA code |url=| accessdaymonth=28 July | accessyear=2006] "Keep Rugby Clean" is a campaign message run by the IRB Anti-Doping Manager Tim Ricketts. The programme is supported by stars such as Brian O'Driscoll.cite web | | title=Keep Rugby Clean |url=| accessdaymonth=28 July | accessyear=2006]

World rankings

The IRB publishes and maintains the World Rankings of the men's national rugby union teams. The concept was launched in October 2003, at the start of that year's world cup in Australia. The rankings are calculated using a Points Exchange system, whereby nations take points off each other based on a match result. Several years of research went into developing the rankings system, using an extensive database of international matches that date back to 1871.

The system's reliability is assessed in a number of objective ways, which includes predictions of current strength and responds to changes in form. The system takes into account home advantage, in that the home nation is treated as though it has an extra three rating points, effectively handicapping them, as they will gain less ranking points for a win, and lose more should they lose. In the case of a freak result, there is a maximum number of movements on the ranking that any nation can gain from one match.

If a nation does not play for a number of years they are considered dormant, and excluded from the rankings, upon returning, picking up from where they were excluded. If a nation is to merge or split, the highest rating of any of the rankings is inherited.

Currently all capped international matches are equally weighted, whether or not they take place within a competition or are played as friendlies; the sole exception to this is the World Cup final tournament.

Recognitions and awards

The IRB Awards were introduced in 2001, to honour outstanding achievements in rugby union. The awards are announced at an annual ceremony; the most recent ceremony was held in Paris on 21 October 2007, the night after the 2007 World Cup Final, which was played in nearby Saint-Denis. The current awards are:

* IRB International Player of the Year
* IRB Team of the Year
* IRB Coach of the Year
* IRB Under 19 Player of the Year
* IRB Sevens Team of the Year
* IRB Sevens Player of the Year
* IRB Women's Personality of the Year
* IRB Referee Award for Distinguished Service
* Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service
* IRB Development Award
* Spirit of Rugby Award

In the past, the IRB has also awarded:

* IRB International U21 Player of the Year
* IRB Chairman's Award

The awards that recognise achievements in the preceding 12 months tend to be won by that season's most successful nation(s): France in 2002, England in 2003, South Africa in 2004, New Zealand in 2005, South Africa again in 2007. For those award categories that have nominees, a shortlist is drawn up by an independent panel of judges, who are all former internationals. The panel then reconvenes to choose a winner. The current judges are Jonathan Davies, Will Greenwood, Gavin Hastings, Michael Jones, Dan Lyle, Federico Méndez, Francois Pienaar and past Player of the Year winners Fabien Galthié and Keith Wood, with John Eales as convenor. The judges have a total of over 500 caps between them.

In 2006 an IRB Hall of Fame was established to chronicle the achievements and special contribution of the sport's players, coaches, administrators, match officials, institutions and other individuals. The Hall of Fame was inaugurated at the 2006 IRB Awards, when William Webb Ellis and Rugby School were named as the first two inductees. Hall of Fame inductees in 2007 were Pierre de Coubertin, Danie Craven, John Eales, Gareth Edwards and Wilson Whineray.


ee also

* Syd Millar
* Mark Egan

External links

* [ International Rugby Board - official website]
* [ IRB The Laws of rugby union]
* [ IRB World Rankings]

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