London (AFP) - The International Rugby Board (IRB) is to change its name to World Rugby, the global governing body for rugby union announced Thursday.
The change will take effect from November 19, with the new brand and logo to be launched at the IRB World Rugby Conference and Exhibition in London on November 17.
In a statement, the IRB said that global rugby participation had increased by more than two million to 6.6 million players over the past four years, driven by the commercial success of Rugby World Cup, the IRB's development strategies and record investment, strong national unions and rugby’s reintroduction to the Olympic Games through the abbreviated format of Sevens.
The name change and rebrand was, officials said, a reflection of the IRB's "mission to build a stronger connection with fans, players and new audiences worldwide".
IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "Rugby continues to thrive, reach out and engage new audiences and participants in record numbers and the IRB has been at the heart of that growth."
The Frenchman added: “We are committed to furthering that growth beyond our traditional family and fan base with a public that expects to be entertained, informed and interacted with.
"This move is more than just a name change, it is a mission statement.”
IRB chief executive Brett Gosper said the change was also indicative of the global governing body's expanded role.
“In a crowded global entertainment and sporting marketplace, the role of the IRB has evolved from game regulator to game inspirer.”
"With this we must continue to appeal to those who know and love the sport and its heritage, whilst attracting, engaging and inspiring those who have no connection with the sport across multiple cultures and languages around the world.”
“Rugby’s global appeal is founded and positioned on its unique character-building values and inclusive ethos and we want everyone to feel connected with the sport and Rugby’s ongoing success story," the Australian added.
"World Rugby, clearly aligns our name with our mission and allows us to organise new and existing consumer facing properties in a way that they will be more impactful and more appealing to the sport's growing global fan base."
The next Rugby World Cup takes place in England, the sport's birthplace, in September and October next year.