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Rugby World Cup 2023 gets official fantasy game and AI tools to tackle online abuse

First official fantasy game looks to drive engagement among younger audiences and grow global game.

8 September 2023 Steve McCaskill
Marcus Smith England Rugby

Getty Images

  • Genius Sports powers RWC 2023 Fantasy
  • AI social media tools look to protect against and report abuse

World Rugby and Genius Sports have launched the first ever official fantasy game for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, while the sport’s governing body will also use artificial intelligence (AI) powered tools to protect participants from abuse on social media.

‘RWC 2023 Fantasy’ employs similar mechanics to other popular games such as Fantasy Premier League, tasking users with assembling a team of 15 players with a fixed budget. Points are then awarded depending on the selected players’ real-life performances.

World Rugby hopes the gamified experience will attract new fans to both the tournament and the sport of rugby union, whilst also deepening engagement with existing fans who will watch more matches to keep up to date with their team.

More signups also mean more data for World Rugby to act upon, while the game is available in English and French language versions.

To support the launch and help fans pick their team, World Rugby has created a one-off show which will be distributed on its recently launched RugbyPass over-the-top (OTT) platform. 

“Rugby World Cup 2023 Fantasy will allow fans worldwide to showcase their rugby knowledge and passion for the sport while also giving them a new way to engage and interact with the tournament,” said James Rothwell, chief marketing and content officer at World Rugby.

As digital channels become increasingly important to the Rugby World Cup, which is now in its tenth iteration, World Rugby has taken steps to protect athletes, officials and coaches from abusive and objectionable content.

Signify’s Threat Matrix technology will identify and report abusive posts and their creators to major social media platforms and expediate their removal and sanctions on the perpetrator. Evidence will also be given to the relevant national union so individuals can be banned from future matches, while in extreme cases, law enforcement agencies will be informed.

“Rugby is a sport for everyone and we take our responsibility very seriously to make the sport as inclusive, accessible and relevant as possible,” said World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin.

“This includes sending a strong message that online hate simply will not be tolerated, tackling abuse and harmful content with meaningful action.

Fifa has used similar technology at the Women’s World Cup as have organisers of the French Open tennis Grand Slam at Roland Garros.


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