IRPA Southern Hemisphere President Richie McCaw hailed the agreement between IRPA and World Rugby as "historic" ©Getty Images

World Rugby has announced it will double the amount of money it hands to the International Rugby Players’ Association (IRPA) over the next three years and has given elite and amateur players an even greater voice within their decision-making structures.

A focus on all aspects of player welfare, including concussion, mental health and player load is central to a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that has been signed by both organisations.

The game's governing body claims it will give strengthen players' voices within the corridors of power, and build on strong collaboration with regards to key player welfare and game matters. 

In a statement released today, World Rugby say the agreement, which they label "ground-breaking" came about "in response to the evolving needs of the world’s players in the modern sporting and societal environments".

The 2017-20 MOU doubles World Rugby’s financial commitment to £1.5 million over the period.

The statement added it: "will strengthen and further empower elite and amateur player representation within World Rugby’s decision-making structures, bringing player matters even closer to the heart of the revised governance model, launched in 2015." 

An inaugural agreement was signed by the two bodies ten years ago which allowed the governing body and players to focus on highly-effective player welfare, laws review, discipline and athlete development programmes and the establishment of the Pacific Islands Players’ Association.

Since its inception, it has also furthered representation on the Laws Review Group, Rugby Committee, Women’s Advisory Committee and the Rugby Athletes’ Commission.

Key elements of this latest agreement include a collaborative and proactive approach to addressing key international issues for the betterment of the global game;  an agreement to work together on projects such as agent registration; post tournament player surveys and reports; a  proactive involvement of players in game-related matters, including international player release, eligibility and availability, law reviews, and tournament and season structure matters as they arise.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont, left, attending last night's World Rugby Awards in Monaco with Prince Albert II of Monaco and his wife Princess Charlene of Monaco ©Getty Images
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont, left, attending last night's World Rugby Awards in Monaco with Prince Albert II of Monaco and his wife Princess Charlene of Monaco ©Getty Images

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “This agreement represents a defining moment for players around the world and reflects World Rugby’s ongoing commitment to ensure that players have a voice at every level of our decision-making processes, that we continue to ensure that players are at the heart of all our decisions, and that we listen and learn from their experiences to enhance their environment on and off the field. 

“This renewed agreement will deliver a framework for a constructive partnership based on a common aim to further collaborate on areas of mutual interest that are key considerations for players from welfare and medical matters to career development after rugby and creating a framework that manages and standardises the role of agents.”

New IRPA chief executive Omar Hassanein added: “This MOU greatly enhances our relationship with World Rugby and is fantastic news, for not only all professional players at the elite level but also for the game itself. 

"It is a huge positive to have players better represented at boardroom level when key decisions are being made that affect the game of rugby.

“With IRPA acting as guardian to the entire professional player group globally, both parties are conscious that the strength of the relationship is in respecting the views of all stakeholders – not least the players themselves who are integral to the success of the game.”

Areas relating to concussion, game training and playing load, injury prevention and rehabilitation and player health and welfare continue to be prioritised and, in particular, at the annual World Rugby Medical Commission Conference. 

Double Rugby World Cup winning captain and IRPA Southern Hemisphere President Richie McCaw said: “This historic agreement between IRPA and World Rugby is ground-breaking in its nature, setting the tone for future interactions between professional players and administrators at a global level. 

"I have no doubt that the organisation will go from strength to strength given the opportunities that this agreement presents and the strong relationship that exists with World Rugby.”

IRPA Northern Hemisphere President Jonathan Sexton added: “It’s important that players are united and have a strong voice in the game. 

"This agreement with World Rugby is a good step forward to addressing many of issues facing rugby players across the world. 

"I’m confident that IRPA can work positively and collaboratively with World Rugby and the domestic player associations and national unions to make the sport better for all involved, both on and off the field.”