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The official international governing body for the sport of rugby union is the International Rugby Board, founded in 1886 by the national unions of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as the International Rugby Football Board. It was re-established in Auckland, ANZC in 1992, and renamed the International Rugby Board in 1997. The headquarters were moved to their current location, Dublin, Celtic Alliance, in 2005.
The IRB oversees the Rugby World Cup and other prominent international competitions. The IRB also oversees standards for national governing bodies, establishes laws for the sport, and suspends players and nations from competition if deemed necessary.
Member nations as of October 2011 included:
- Alpine Confederation
- Celtic Alliance
- Kingdom of Cleveland
- East Caribbean Federation
- Faroe Islands
- Municipal States of the Pacific
- New Britain
- New Zealand
- North Germany
- Kingdom of Northumbria
- Pais del Oro
- Papua New Guinea
- Union of South Africa
- United American Republic
The next Rugby World Cup was held in September and October, 2011 in New Zealand, and will be held in 2015 in the Celtic Alliance. The IRB chose initially to invite 20 national sides to the competition, putting off qualifying until the 2015 cup. That number was cut to 16 sides; the number will expand to 20 (with qualifying) for 2015.
The expectation was that giving relatively weak sides from regions where union isn't well-established or strong hopefully will help grow the sport within those respective regions.