World Rugby is looking to create new emerging nations competitions by 2022, "unify" the men's international 15s and sevens calendars and launch a plan to "accelerate" diversity and inclusion across all levels of the game.
These targets form part of "A Global Sport for All - True to its Values", a new strategic plan for the advancement and growth of the sport through to 2025 to help the sport recover from the COVID-19 crisis.
World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin said the five-year plan would help the organisation tackle coronavirus, rugby union's calendar and concussion to develop a "safer, stronger and more sustainable game for all".
The plan focuses on areas including competition, participation, engagement and the game itself with World Rugby setting a series of "game-changing" targets for each.
World Rugby pledged to hold an open discussion with the rugby family and independent experts to continually advance player welfare guided by research, science and technology.
The organisation also plans to lead research to inform and advance injury prevention and mental wellbeing and drive player welfare-centered law review and trials to further protect players at all levels of the game.
In a bid to ensure the game is "attractive and relevant" to the next generation of players, World Rugby said it would look to find ways to "supercharge" sevens, enhance the community game and further develop the non-contact offering for emerging nations, where shorter formats such as touch and tag are found to be attracting newcomers to the sport.
Last month, a new women's international competition, called WXV, was launched in a bid to increase competitiveness and commercial and fan engagement opportunities, as well as prepare teams for the 2025 World Cup.
World Rugby said it now planned to "advance and unify" the men's international 15s and sevens calendars to "build a stronger and more aligned sport for all".
World Rugby has launched ‘A Global Sport for All’, a new strategic plan for the advancement and growth of the sport through to 2025.— World Rugby Media (@worldrugbymedia) April 21, 2021
The plan is underpinned by a focus on evolving the game, with advancing player welfare at heart. pic.twitter.com/ML7RkRcLtN
It also aimed to facilitate discussions and seek to develop a "more compelling competition structure" and "unified approach" to test rugby within the July and November windows.
With player welfare central to considerations, World Rugby said it was reviewing the role of its competitions with the objective of increasing global competitiveness and diversifying revenues for the sport.
Game-changing targets include the launch of new men's and women's emerging nations competitions by 2022 to boost high performance competition opportunities, as well as a revamped sevens rugby ecosystem.
To mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the grassroots game, World Rugby said it would work in partnership with regions and unions to retain players, with a particular focus on the 15-a-side game.
The plan also underlines World Rugby's commitment to the success of women in rugby, looking to build on the work of the "Try and Stop Us" campaign to further increase the number of women involved in the sport.
World Rugby said it would launch a new plan to "accelerate diversity and inclusion across all levels of the game" in line with the recommendations of the organisation's wide-ranging governance review.
As part of the strategic plan, World Rugby has set out to increase the sport's global fan base by 10 per cent by 2025 and pledged to deliver "compelling and relevant" content to fans and developing new and increased revenues for reinvestment in the game.
Diversity, inclusion, sustainability and good governance are also at the heart of the plan with the implementation of measures that bid to build on the transformational reforms made in 2015 and the recommendations of the independent-led Governance Working Group as well as the publication of a Sustainability Charter.
🗣️“In these uncertain and challenging times, it has never been more important to map a route ahead for the sport."— World Rugby Media (@worldrugbymedia) April 21, 2021
Alan Gilpin, World Rugby Chief Executive pic.twitter.com/tz18bLoQKU
"The ambitious strategic plan 2021-25, recognises the current challenges and sets out a long-term roadmap to support and develop rugby around the globe," said World Rugby chair Sir Bill Beaumont.
"It will focus and guide us as we work to ensure the game is as enjoyable, accessible, appealing and safe as possible, with player welfare remaining our number one priority.
"This is not just a plan for World Rugby, it is a plan for the whole rugby family that has embraced input from across the rugby community, from unions and regions to partners and stakeholders.
"Everyone has a role to play, whether they be a player, parent, fan, volunteer, coach or administrator, and we look forward to driving the sport forward together."
World Rugby vice-chair Bernard Laporte said the plan was an "important moment" for the organisation, insisting the game needs "unity, vision and leadership".
"In these uncertain and challenging times, it has never been more important to map a route ahead for the sport," added Gilpin.
"As an organisation, a sport and a family, this plan will guide how we tackle the three Cs of COVID, calendar and concussion, and build the foundations for a safer, stronger and more sustainable game for all.
"We will focus on advancing player welfare and international competitiveness, increase participation, grow revenues and deepen fan engagement."