About the IRL

The global governing body of Rugby League


As the global governing body for the sport of Rugby League, the role of International Rugby League (IRL) is to Foster, develop, promulgate, promote, govern and administer the game of rugby league throughout the world...



...It does this by bringing together the Member nations, of which there are 19 full Members, 16 affiliate Members and 19 observer Members. 

Each Member nation belongs to a regional confederation; Americas Rugby League, Asia Pacific Rugby League (APRL), European Rugby League (ERL), Middle East Africa Rugby League (MEA).   

IRL work with the regional confederations to develop the sport globally and organise International Test Matches and competitions at the most elite level of the game. 

The IRL is responsible for the official sanctioning of Tests Matches contested between Member Nations and the global rankings of which these contests contribute toward. 

Since 1998, IRL have been responsible for the Laws of Rugby League. 

Crowning champions 

Every four years the International Rugby League World Cup is held. Consisting of competitions for men, women and wheelchair.  

Every year, the Golden Boot Award is presented to the best Man, Woman and Wheelchair player  

A brief history of the international federation

International rugby league kicked off in 1904 when England played the Other Nationalities, composed of Welsh and Scottish players, at Wigan’s Central Park. In 1907 the game’s footprint was extended to New Zealand and Australia, followed by France in 1934.

It wasn’t until 1927 that thought was given to creating a governing body for the game, when the Southern Hemisphere nations proposed setting up an Imperial Rugby League Board. The suggestion as never implemented. In 1935, the French Rugby League again proposed creating an international body, but this was not carried through.

Finally in 1948, once more at the urging of the French Rugby League, the Rugby League International Board was established by the British, French and New Zealand governing bodies. Australia joined in 1949.

In 1954, again following a French proposal, the first-ever Rugby League World Cup was staged, making the game the first major sport after football to stage a world cup tournament. 

The world game expanded in the 1980s and 1990s, and in 1998 a new governing body, the Rugby League International Federation was founded. In 2019 the RLIF transformed itself into International Rugby League. (brief history courtesy of Tony Collins)


The IRL's affairs and management is carried out by an executive team that report into the Board of Directors. 

The Board has 12 Directors comprising of: 

  • three independent Directors nominated by the board under Article 4.3;
  • one director nominated by the ARLC and one director nominated by the RFL, as the National Federations which operate the Major Professional Leagues;
  • three Directors nominated by the ERL, with one nominated by the RFL, this person being the RFL nominee to the ERL board;
  • three Directors nominated by the Asia Pacific Confederation, with one representing the ARLC and one nominated by the NZRL, these persons being the ARLC and the NZRL nominees respectively to the APRLC Board; and
  • one Director nominated by the NZRL.


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