May 16, 2014 (ISN) – The International Rugby Board has welcomed the Uzbekistan Rugby Federation (URF) as a Full Member Union after IRB Council approved its application at the annual meeting in Dublin on Wednesday.

The URF became an Associate Member of the IRB in November 2004 and is already a Full Member of the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU), regularly taking part in regional events and council meetings. In addition, the URF is recognised by its National Olympic Committee.

The IRB is committed to the development of Rugby in Asia and this is another step forward for the Game in that part of the world as Uzbekistan is regarded as a country with huge potential for further growth.

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “We are delighted to be welcoming Uzbekistan as a Full Member of the IRB. Rugby is experiencing unprecedented global growth and interest with more than 6.6 million men, women and children playing the Game. Today’s announcement certainly underlines Rugby’s ability to reach out to new communities and countries in every region.”

“As home to 60 per cent of the world’s young people, Asia is a strategically important region for the IRB. Working in collaboration with ARFU we are currently investing more than US$3 million annually in development, high performance and tournament programmes across the region and we will ensure that Uzbekistan has the structures in place to flourish and grow on the world stage.”

The URF has met the IRB criteria for Full Member status. It is a well-structured organisation with dedicated administrators. It has around 350 active adult players and 250 youth players and runs a domestic Fifteens club competition while the national Fifteens team currently plays in the Asian 5 Nations competition.

The IRB Council has granted Associate Member status to the Federación de Rugby de Costa Rica (FRCR), which has been a member of the Confederación Sudamericana de Rugby (CONSUR) since 2011. The FRCR has submitted an application for recognition to its National Olympic Committee, which is contingent on IRB membership. It actively partakes in CONSUR events and successfully hosted the CONSUR C Championship in 2013.

The FRCR is a structured organisation administered by volunteers and satisfies the IRB’s Associate Membership criteria. It runs an annual domestic Fifteens competition and the national Fifteens team plays in the CONSUR C tournament. It is the first Member Union from central America.

The relevant regional associations, ARFU and CONSUR, fully supported both these applications and they mean that there are now 102 Full Members of the IRB and 121 in total.