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Mastercard report reveals five trends and 15 pioneers shaping the sport ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2023 – Mastercard

January 29, 2024

Today Mastercard launched its Future of Rugby report and Future XV squad: A celebration of the remarkable individuals from around the globe who are shaping the future of the sport, ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2023 tournament kicking off across France this week. 
On the 200th anniversary of the sport, the Future of Rugby report identifies five ways rugby is positively impacting society, acting as a ‘force for good’ through inclusivity, health, education, the fan experience, and sustainability. The report forecasts a 10% growth in global followers and fans of rugby by 2025, along with a 17% increase in participation in this World Cup year. For each social impact trend identified, the report suggests a focus for the future, led by the current examples making a difference today.

Highlight findings include:

Penned by world-leading rugby academics at the University of Bath, the report features exclusive interviews from rugby legends and Mastercard ambassadors Bryan Habana, Dan Carter, Maggie Alphonsi, Portia Woodman-Wickliffe, Safi N’Diaye and Sébastian Chabal, plus a host of personal stories of innovators from around the world doing remarkable work to drive the game forward. 
To bring to life the five key areas identified as driving the growth in the game, Mastercard has assembled a team of remarkable individuals who are shaping the future of the sport – the Future XV.  
This squad of pioneers, selected with assistance from the University of Bath and international stars of the game, embody the positive changes being made for rugby’s future growth, championing activity at all levels of the game, from grassroots to professional, in countries from all around the world.  
The global trailblazers paving the way for future generations of rugby players are: 
Commenting on the report, lead author and rugby science specialist Professor Keith Stokes, said: “The report and the Future XV squad uncover extraordinary people and organizations working hard to create positive change at all levels of the game. On rugby’s 200th anniversary, now is the time to celebrate these innovators as well as all that rugby has achieved, but also to build on that to propel the sport forwards into the decades ahead. That means rugby continuing to innovate to attract more people into the sport, demonstrating its positive influence in society, and taking a lead on key issues.  
“Guided by rugby’s core principles of solidarity and respect, we hope this report can act as a springboard that helps to drive lasting and impactful change, which in turn will help ensure rugby continues to be a force for good in the years ahead.”
Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of Mastercard, added: “This year, we celebrate 200 years of rugby. And while it’s a chance to look back, it’s more importantly an opportunity to look ahead to the next 200 years of the game. As sponsor of the men’s and women’s Rugby World Cups, and programs like Women in Rugby, we’ve seen the incredible passion rugby evokes among players and fans alike. Mastercard is proud to be part of the legacy of this great sport—and to invest in rugby’s bright future.” 
Alan Gilpin, World Rugby Chief Executive said: “This year, we are celebrating 200 years of rugby, and it is an important moment to reflect, challenge and harness the pioneering spirit of our beginnings to shape a bright future for our sport. From promoting inclusion and diversity to fostering a sense of community, rugby has the power to bring people together and create positive social change. This fascinating Mastercard Future of Rugby report does more than simply bring this to life, but it demonstrates that we have the passion and expertise to continue to move forward to shape a better game and set a positive example.” 
Top photo: Mastercard Future XV (L-R) Jamie Farndale, Barbara Pichot, Deb Coulthard, Alex Bassan, Maia Marshall-Amai, Kelly Evans, Martino Corazza, Shaunagh Brown, Zintle Mpaphu, Jérémy Clamy, Ayaz Bhuta MBE, Julien Pierre, Sene Naoupu,Richard Fagan, Joe Perkins
About the University of Bath
The University of Bath is one of the UK’s leading universities for high-impact research with a reputation for excellence in education, student experience and graduate prospects.  We are named ‘University of the Year’ in the The Times and The Sunday Times  Good University Guide 2023, and ranked among the world’s top 10% of universities, placing 148th in the QS World University Rankings 2024. We are ranked 5th in the UK in the Complete University Guide 2024 and 7th in The Guardian University Guide 2023.   
Bath is rated in the world’s top 10 universities for sport in the QS World University Ranking by Subject 2023. We produce some of the world’s most job-ready graduates, ranking as one of the world’s top 90 universities for employer reputation according to the QS World University Rankings 2024. In the National Student Survey 2022, our overall student satisfaction was rated 10% above the national average and ranked in the UK’s top 3. 
Research from Bath is helping to change the world for the better. Across the University’s three Faculties and School of Management, our research is making an impact in society, leading to low-carbon living, positive digital futures, and improved health and wellbeing. Find out all about our Research with Impact: 
About Professor Keith Stokes
Lead author for ‘The Future of Rugby’ report is rugby science specialist, Professor Keith Stokes. For more than a decade, Stokes and his team at the University of Bath have been pioneering interventions to make the game safer for millions of players who enjoy the sport week in, week out. He was behind interventions such as ‘crouch, bind, set’ for the scrum and ‘Activate, which have subsequently been rolled out globally by World Rugby to reduce injuries in players.
About World Rugby
World Rugby is an international federation and a global movement comprising more than 500 million fans and eight million players within 133 national member federations affiliated through six regional associations.
World Rugby’s purpose is to grow rugby by making it more relevant and accessible, with a vision of a global sport for all, true to its values. The driving force behind the sport’s significant growth has been World Rugby’s portfolio of major events, from the flagship men’s and women’s Rugby World Cups to WXV and the HSBC SVNS, showcasing the Olympic version of the sport.
The financial success of the men’s Rugby World Cup enables World Rugby to invest record sums in the development and growth of the sport from the playground to the podium, ensuring that the sport is as accessible and enjoyable for as many people as possible. Between 2020-23, the international federation will invest more than £565 million in the sport, representing a 22 per cent uplift on the previous four-year business cycle. 
About Mastercard (NYSE: MA)
Mastercard is a global technology company in the payments industry. Our mission is to connect and power an inclusive, digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere by making transactions safe, simple, smart and accessible. Using secure data and networks, partnerships and passion, our innovations and solutions help individuals, financial institutions, governments and businesses realize their greatest potential. With connections across more than 210 countries and territories, we are building a sustainable world that unlocks priceless possibilities for all.


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