By Daniel Etchells at the Hilton London Metropole Hotel

New Zealand's Victor Vito participated in the Rugby Athletes' Commission ©Getty ImagesAn inaugural Rugby Athletes' Commission (RAC) meeting has been held to start a busy programme at the 2014 International Rugby Board (IRB) World Rugby Conference and Exhibition (ConfEx).

The world's top male and female players participated in the Commission, a partnership between the IRB and the International Rugby Players' Association (IRPA), which seeks to provide a formal and more structured forum through which they can have their views channelled into rugby's decision-making processes.

Chaired by IRB Rugby Committee chairman John Jeffrey, the RAC's focus is to identify and discuss issues facing the game, to make observations and recommendations, and to assist in better informing the IRB and IRPA in the pursuit of their respective objectives and initiatives.

With rugby enjoying rapid global growth, the Commission will advise the IRB Rugby Committee in key areas including player welfare and laws of the game.

"The establishment of our first-ever Rugby Athletes' Commission is a significant step forward for the sport and underscores the IRB's commitment to ensure that players are at the heart of the world rugby decision-making process," said IRB chairman, Bernard Lapasset, following the meeting yesterday.

"This important body will provide a closer link between the IRB Committees and elite men's and women's players, informing and advising the IRB on all matters relating to the playing of the game.

"I would like to thank IRPA, the players and our unions for their commitment to this process."

The structure of the RAC includes elite players representing the IRPA.

These nominees are considered to be representative of the high performance and professional levels of the game and have the mandate and confidence of the players having been elected by their respective national players' associations.

Bernard Lapasset, chairman of the IRB, believes the establishment of the Rugby Athletes' Commission is a significant step forward for the sport ©Getty ImagesBernard Lapasset, chairman of the IRB, believes the establishment of the Rugby Athletes' Commission is a significant step forward for the sport ©Getty Images

The representatives include three men's fifteens players, New Zealand's Victor Vito, France's Benjamin Kayser and Ireland's Andrew Trimble, two from men's sevens, South Africa's Kyle Brown and Wales' Lee Williams, and two from women's sevens, England's Rachael Burford and Ireland's Lynne Cantwell.

The Commission will be supported by IRB and IRPA executive staff and relevant council and Committee members as required.

"The establishment of the Commission is a welcome step in bringing players closer to the decision making process as well as recognising their position as stakeholders at the centre of the game," said IRPA chief executive, Rob Nichol.

"The eight players are empowered by our membership to ensure that the core welfare areas in the game are represented and the RAC gives the players the opportunity to shape the future of the game."

All Blacks loose forward, Vito, added: "I am delighted to represent IRPA members on the RAC, it's a very significant development for player advocacy and ensures that we, the players, can have our views and opinions heard.

"This is a huge step forwards for the game and the continued welfare of all players in world rugby."

Other meetings surrounding the two-day IRB World Rugby ConfEx include, the Growing the Game Conference, the IRB Medical Commission Conference and Player Load meeting, and the World Rugby Council and Executive Committee meetings.

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