A rugby boom in emerging regions, including Asia and Africa, has boosted global participation by 19 per cent since the 2007 World Cup, a new report shows.
The study found growth of 18 per cent in Asia, 22 per cent in South America and 33 per cent in Africa, buoyed by the successful Sevens World Series and the format's inclusion in the 2016 Olympics.
A sharp rise in Eastern Europe has also increased the number of players by 22 per cent across the continent.
The report, commissioned by MasterCard before this year's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, found Sri Lanka, with 103,000 players, was Asia's second-biggest rugby nation behind Japan.
Chinese players are up 13 per cent since 2009, but with only 5,430 among a billion-plus population.
However, China's women's Sevens team made last year's Asian Games final, and Sevens will appear at China's 2013 National Games.
Kenya's success in Sevens has contributed to strong growth in Africa, while the United States has more than tripled its number of players since 2004 thanks to successful Sevens events in San Diego and Las Vegas.
"These are extremely exciting times for rugby with strong growth and participation worldwide," International Rugby Board (IRB) chairman Bernard Lapasset was quoted as saying.
More than five million men, women and children in some 117 countries now play the game, the report found.