Women's Rugby players from around the world have united on International Women’s Day to celebrate those who have played an inspirational role in the growth and development of one of the world’s fastest-growing team sports.
Global participation has broken the 1.5 million mark for the first time and girls and women are getting into the sport in record numbers, across all continents, ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
2014 is already on track to be a landmark year on the field with Women's Rugby World Cup 2014 set to showcase the strength of the Fifteens Game, while the IRB Women's Sevens World Series is inspiring new young audiences around the world with its attractive brand of skill, speed and excitement across five global locations.
Off the field, the IRB's Get Into Rugby programme is introducing thousands of girls to Rugby in more than 40 countries, female referees, coaches and disciplinary officers are being identified and trained, while high-profile players are pushing the Keep Rugby Clean anti-doping message in their role as ambassadors.
The year will also see the IRB recognise the achievements of those who have excelled on the world stage through the IRB Awards, while inspirational players and pioneers will be inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame at Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 in France.
International Women's Day caps a great week for women's Rugby, following the announcement that Sky Sports will broadcast in the UK and Ireland Women's Rugby World Cup 2014, while Ireland's women will play their first Test match at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin today. England Rugby 2015 organising body CEO Debbie Jevans was recognised as the most powerful women in sport by a UK newspaper this week.
The popularity of social media is playing a major role in the attraction and growth of the sport, with players, coaches and match officials pledging their messages of support and excitement on International Women's Day by using the hashtag #WRUGBY and joining the conversation at the @irbwomens twitter account.
IRB Women's Development Manager Su Carty said: "Today is all about celebrating women’s achievement in Rugby and those who have inspired change.
"We now have more women and girls playing and engaging in the sport than ever before and we have a really exciting opportunity with Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016 and 2020 to ensure that women’s Rugby is at the very forefront of team sport and is seen as an attractive sport to play, through its character-building values.
"I hope that International Women’s Day has inspired a new generation of women and young girls to take up Rugby and look forward to hopefully seeing them in Rio 2016, Tokyo 2020 and beyond!"
Tickets for the knockout stages of the Women's Rugby World Cup 2014 can be found here, while tickets for the pool stages will be released in due course.
- Thursday 21 August 2014 - Olympics
Bach and Lapasset thrilled with Olympic debut
- Thursday 21 August 2014 - Oceania
NZ men join strongest ever Oceania Sevens
- Wednesday 20 August 2014 - Women's RWC 2014
World Cup preparation was spot on - Scarratt
- Wednesday 20 August 2014 - Africa
Unions plot path to the TOP
- Wednesday 20 August 2014 - Olympics
Australia and France win Youth Olympic gold
- 20 August - England's Maggie Alphonsi and Emily Scarratt on winning the Women's Rugby World Cup
- 20 August - Heather Moyse on the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing
- 20 August - An emotional Dom du Toit on Australia's victory at the Youth Olympic Games
- 20 August - France captain Alex Arrate and coach Thierry Janeczeck on winning the men's event at the Youth Olympic Games
- 20 August - Canada's Hannah Darling on winning silver at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing
- 20 August - China's Yueying Gao on winning bronze at the Youth Olympics
- 19 August - Serge Betsen on France reaching the final of the men's event at the Youth Olympic Games
- 19 August - Australia's Dom du Toit on reaching the final of the women's sevens event in the Youth Olympic Games
- 19 August - All Blacks legend Zinzan Brooke takes on 'Tackle These'
- 18 August - Springbok Handre Pollard on his meteoric rise to the top