By Daniel Etchells

The IWRF has confirmed its committment to bringing variants of wheelchair rugby under its governance ©IWRFThe International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) has committed to bringing variants of the sport under its governance as part of its new strategic plan.

In response to the increasing activity in wheelchair rugby variants in recent years, including versions of able-bodied rugby union designed for players in wheelchairs, as well as versions based on IWRF rules but open to a wider range of persons with disabilities, the world governing body has taken the decision to embrace the development.

Other examples of variants include wheelchair sevens, a version of seven-a-side rugby union, and open class wheelchair rugby, which includes athletes with paraplegia and lower limb disabilities, seen at the 2014 Invictus Games in London.

These have been developed by IWRF members and other grassroots organisations, but are currently outside IWRF governance.

The growing demand for opportunities to play wheelchair rugby by persons currently not eligible to participate, coupled with the IWRF's core value of inclusiveness, are the main reasons behind the move.

"We define the wheelchair rugby family as open and welcoming to all who share our values," said IWRF chief executive Eron Main.

"We should work to provide opportunities for everyone who wants to be involved.

"This includes variants of our sport."

Wheelchair rugby featured on the sports programme of the 2014 Invictus Games in London ©Getty Images Wheelchair rugby featured on the sports programme of the 2014 Invictus Games in London ©Getty Images

As a first step, the IWRF will reach out to those practicing variants of wheelchair rugby and establish a working group to bring them into its family.

They will be encouraged to continue to develop and practice their sports during this process, and where possible the IWRF will provide advice and assistance.

"The decision to work with wheelchair rugby variants is the best one for our sport and for IWRF," added Main.

"The increased appetite for variants is a direct reflection of the success we have had developing and promoting our core sport.

"By including even more athletes and supporters with a passion for wheelchair rugby in all its forms, IWRF will become even stronger, and closer to our vision of being the world leader in wheelchair sport."

The IWRF released its new strategic four-year plan, aimed at directing the future growth of the sport, last month.

The plan was drafted at the IWRF Educational and Planning meetings in February, when the governing body began to put their strategy until 2018 in motion with the support of World Rugby and Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby, and was then approved by the IWRF board. 

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