A radical new “rapid rugby” competition is set to kick off across the Asia-Pacific next year with 70-minute games and new rules to encourage fast-paced entertainment after being approved by the sport’s global chiefs.
The 2018 season attendance figure is displayed during the World Series Rugby match between the Force and Wild Knights at nib Stadium. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
Global Rapid Rugby is the brainchild of Australian mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, sparked by his outrage at the Perth club he supports — Western Force — being axed from Super Rugby.
It builds on his inaugural World Series Rugby event in Perth this year — initially known as the Indo-Pacific Rugby Championship — which featured three teams from Australia and five from the Asia-Pacific, attracting respectable crowds.
World Rugby gave the new concept conditional approval at its meeting in Dublin on Thursday.
The format will include a nine-point power try if the move starts within a team’s own 22 metre area, reduced times for kick-off and penalties, 10 rolling substitutions and the defence pushed a further five metres back at the scrum.
It is scheduled to kick off in late February, in direct competition to Super Rugby, which starts its season the same month.
Forrest said 20 marquee players would be signed and spread across the eight teams, which will play 14 rounds and 60 games, including finals.
Asked if that would include players of the calibre of former All Black Dan Carter, for example, he replied: “Watch this space.”
“But when I mention we’re targeting the very best available I do mean the very best,” he added.
Teams will come from, or be based in, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Fiji, Samoa and Japan, along with the Western Force and a side backed by a private consortium from a country yet to be announced.
Expansion plans for 2021 and beyond include China, India, the UAE, Sri Lanka and South Korea, with the ultimate aim to grow the game in those countries.
“I’d like to thank everyone that has been bold and brave enough to support this brand-new competition,” said Forrest.
“Like all sports, rugby needs to evolve. The modern sports public is spoilt for choice and demands easily digestible, fast-paced action.
“There’s something about rugby which builds communities, bands people together, gives joy across communities. I want to bring that into the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.”
World Rugby said in a statement it had given a conditional green light “subject to approval from participating unions”.
“The competition aims to further rugby’s spread across the Asia-Pacific area, providing high performance competition for emerging nations,” it said.
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