By James Crook

134125802February 23 - The International Rugby Board (IRB) have held their first conference with the specific aim of boosting female participation as they launch a programme which will fast-track the best female officials to support flagship events such as the Women's Rugby World Cup, Women's World Sevens and international women's rugby.

A total of 16 Northern Hemisphere Union representatives from the legal, rugby judicial, playing and match officiating fraternity who have been identified as having the potential to perform at domestic, elite and international level met at the IRB Women's Disciplinary Conference in Dublin.

The top candidates will then be fast-tracked to support the IRB's flagship events, including the Women's Rugby World Cup, which takes place in France next year, to gain experience and insight at the highest level of women's rugby.

The programme has been backed by the Unions of England, France, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

"Women's Rugby is one of the world's fastest-growing team sports with more than one million women and girls actively participating," said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.

"The IRB has ambitious plans to double that figure by the time Women's Sevens debuts at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and central to that mission is the participation of women in all facets of the sport.

134126194Women's rugby is one of the fastest growing team sports, according to IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset. 

"With such phenomenal growth comes the need for greater administrative support at all levels and this important initiative will identify a raft of new talent that will ultimately benefit women's and men's elite rugby and deliver the next generation of disciplinary officers that will protect the integrity of the game."

IRB chief disciplinary officer Susan Ahern added: "We have been impressed by the appetite and support for this essential programme from our member Unions.

"Working in collaboration with our Unions, we are continually looking to identify and develop new talent and create the next generation of disciplinary officers and citing commissioners who have the potential to represent the IRB at our showcase women's and men's events."

A similar event is set to take place later this year for SouthernHemisphere nations.

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