rugby iranThe global rugby family has a new member, with Iran being welcomed as the IRB’s 118th member union. The Iranian union joins heavyweights England, New Zealand, Wales and the rest after progressing through the IRB’s comprehensive membership criteria programme via the IRB’s Regional Association, the Asian Rugby Football Union, where governance, competition and development structures were assessed.

As rugby’s return to the Olympics gets closer and closer, Iran are becoming a growing force in the West Asia region. The country has more than 1,700 registered players, while the national senior men’s team were HSBC Asian 5 Nations Division Three champions this year.

The union runs men’s and women’s national sevens programmes within the Asian Rugby Sevens Series structures and has made significant strides in development and performance in recent years.

“We’re delighted to be welcoming Iran as an Associate Member of the IRB,” said IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset. “These are very exciting times for our sport with unprecedented growth and interest around the world. The announcement certainly underlines rugby’s ability to reach out to new communities and countries in every region.

“As home to 60% of the global population and 80% of the world’s young people, Asia is a strategically important region for the IRB.

“Working in collaboration with the Asian Rugby Football Union, we’re currently investing over £1.92m annually in development, high performance and tournament programmes across the region and we will ensure that Iran has the structures in place to flourish and grow on the world stage.”