World Rugby has rebranded its men’s and women’s World Cups in an effort to achieve gender neutrality in the sport. Both competitions will now be referred to simply as Rugby World Cups with gender no longer included in their titles in a move that World Rugby has heralded as “the ultimate statement in equality”.

For the women’s edition of the tournament the change will come in for the 2021 World Cup in New Zealand. The most recent was hosted by Ireland in 2017 when the final, in which New Zealand beat England, was broadcast on free-to-air TV for the first time and attracted a peak audience of 2.6 million.

The decision to drop genders from competition titles is a first for a major sporting federation and World Rugby believes it will “elevate the profile of the women’s game, while eliminating any inherent or perceived bias towards men’s only competitions and tournaments”. The change will also apply to Sevens World Cup tournaments.

The World Rugby chairman, Bill Beaumont, said: “This announcement demonstrates our ongoing and unwavering commitment to advancing women in rugby both on and off the field in line with our ambitious strategic plan. Unintentional gender bias in sport is an ongoing issue. As a global sporting federation we need to be leading from the front on the issue of equality. By adopting gender balance in the naming of men’s and women’s Rugby World Cup competitions, we are setting new standards in equality in rugby.”

This year the France men’s national team was renamed “XV de France Masculin” in a similar bid for gender equality. In England the Premiership champions, Saracens, refer to themselves as Saracens Men while Harlequins Ladies recently changed their name to Harlequins Women.

Serge Simon, chair of World Rugby’s women’s advisory committee, said: “This is much more than an initiative – it is the ultimate statement of equality and a first for sport. I am excited about this landmark decision but this is the beginning of the journey. Together, we are working hard to do something very special for women, for the game.”

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