Nepal, Qatar and Turkey have been approved as full members at the Annual Meeting of World Rugby Council, which was held virtually on 11 May.
Each of the three national unions have ascended to that status having previously been associate members.
World Rugby’s supreme decision-making body approved the recommendations of the Executive Board and Regional Committee, to accept their moves to full membership, after Nepal, Qatar and Turkey each met the necessary governance criteria.
Although the total membership of the international federation remains at 132, its make-up has been changed by the promotion of the three unions and now comprises 114 full members and 18 associate members.
The move demonstrates the continued strategic focus on the expansion of rugby’s reach across the globe, driven by a surge of interest in women’s rugby, and the development of rugby sevens in emerging nations.
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Qatar and Turkey’s promotion to full member status comes three years after the two unions were admitted as associate members in May, 2020.
The news was also confirmed less than a week after Qatar claimed the men’s Asia Rugby Championship Division 2 2023 title, following wins against India and Kazakhstan in Doha.
Qatar Rugby Federation President Yousef Al Kuwari and General Secretary Abdulla Al Khater said in a joint statement: “We are thrilled and honoured to be recognised as a full World Rugby member.
“This is a momentous occasion for the Qatar Rugby Federation and a testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in promoting and developing rugby in our country.
“We are excited to take our place amongst many other esteemed unions and contribute to the growth of this great sport."
Rugby has been played in Qatar since 1974, when the first club was formed, and the Qatar Rugby Federation have an ambitious strategic plan to develop the sport at grassroots level, creating a pathway from age-grade to the senior national sides by 2030.
Turkey’s men’s national team will conclude their Rugby Europe Conference 2 South campaign against Montenegro this weekend, looking for their first win of the season.
In sevens, meanwhile, their men play in the Rugby Europe Sevens Conference and women in the Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Trophy.
Domestically, Turkey is home to a senior men’s 15s championship and men’s, women’s, boys’ and girls’ sevens tournaments.
The country boasts 3,648 registered players (2,300 male and 1,348 female), while tag rugby is taught in schools as preparation for moving into the senior game.
Turkish Rugby Federation President Murat Pazan said: “Our goal is to cultivate the rugby culture among Turkish youth, and we are committed to working towards this aim.
“It has been particularly satisfying for us to see our progress and efforts acknowledged by both World Rugby and Rugby Europe in recent years.
“Walking alongside the World Rugby family from this day forward will provide us with strength and motivation. Therefore, we would like to express our gratitude to World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont, Rugby Europe President Octavian Morariu, all of their office staff, and finally, Jason Lewis, who played a significant role in our membership and honoured us by visiting our country.”
Nepal have been an associate member since November 2020. Their men’s national team competed in the Asia Rugby Championship Division 3 South last November, losing both of their matches, against hosts India and Bangladesh, in Kolkata.
Rugby was first played in Nepal in the early 1980s, but the visit of the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour in December 2018 proved a game-changer in raising awareness of the sport among the youth population and important stakeholders in the country.
The union’s Women’s Development Committee vice-chair, Kamana Giri earned a place on the Capgemini Women in Rugby Leadership Programme in March 2022.
Nepal Rugby Association President Dipak Devkota said: “We extend our heartfelt gratitude to World Rugby and its Council for granting us the esteemed status of being a full member, which serves as both a challenge and an opportunity.
“The recognition bestowed upon us has provided a tremendous boost to the players, officials, and the entire rugby community in Nepal, inspiring us to further enhance the growth and development of rugby within our nation.”