Rugby player numbers rebound in NZ - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Rugby player numbers rebound in NZ

23/09/2008 08:25:50 AM Comments (0)

Rugby player numbers in New Zealand, down by four percent in 2007, have rebounded significantly this year, the NZ Rugby Union says.

A total of 140,279 players were involved in game this year, a three per cent increase on the 2007 figure of 136,059.

The union's community rugby manager, Brent Anderson, said the rise was a big boost for the game, and provincial unions should be credited for the rise in numbers.

"We would like to thank the provincial unions for their efforts and their work with us to grow the game," Anderson said.

"One of our 2008 priorities ... is to increase participation rates in all areas, and since our first community rugby plan was introduced in 2004, we have recorded an overall increase of 16 per cent in player numbers."

One of the areas of significant growth was in the under-13 age group, where seven per cent more children played rugby this year - a total of 68,897 compared to 64,342 in 2007.

More coaches and referees were also involved in the game this year, with 10,287 coaches registered in 2008, up by 13 per cent from the previous year.

Referee numbers were up to 2394 this year, a three per cent rise from 2007.

There has been a slight decrease - one per cent - in the number of teenagers playing rugby.

"Teenagers have a greater choice these days in terms of what they do in their spare time, and we recognise that. But provincial unions are thinking outside the square to keep these young players interested in the game," Anderson said.

He said one example was in Wanganui, where first 15 rugby was played on week nights to allow secondary school students free time on Saturday to pursue other interests.

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