The word "Women's" has been removed from the name Women's Rugby World Cup ©Getty Images

World Rugby has announced that the names of its flagship World Cup competitions are to become "gender neutral" in both the 15s and sevens formats.

The move will see the word "Women's" dropped from the name of female events in a bid to ensure equal billing with men's tournaments.

It means the Women's Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand will now simply be Rugby World Cup 2021, with this tournament beginning the name change roll-out. 

The move has been described by World Rugby as "groundbreaking" and is based on a recommendation brought before the organisation's Council by the Rugby World Cup Limited Board.

"The purpose is to elevate the profile of the women's game, while eliminating any inherent or perceived bias towards men's only competitions and tournaments, which traditionally haven't specified gender," a World Rugby statement said.

Sir Bill Beaumont, the chairman of World Rugby, added: "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. 

World Rugby has launched a number of gender equality initiatives ©Getty Images
World Rugby has launched a number of gender equality initiatives ©Getty Images

"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."

World Rugby has introduced a number of initiatives to improve gender equality including an action plan called "Accelerating the Global Development of Women in Rugby 2017-2025".

There are now 17 female members on the Council, a rise from zero in little over a year, while a women's rugby campaign called "Try and Stop Us" was launched in May.

"World Rugby is clearly committed to equality in our sport and we decided that we no longer need to identify our marquee events with a gender bias from a brand level," said the governing body's chief marketing officer Marissa Pace.

"Our three World Cup events are the pinnacle of international rugby and we wanted the focus to be on the event and the athletes, not their gender. 

"We're very proud to be leading the sports industry in this space."