Billionaire backer Andrew Forrest has taken the covers off the new Global Rapid Rugby competition, which is proposed to feature eight teams from the Asia-Pacific region, 70-minute games and no kicking out on the full.
The competition – which will have a $1 million first prize – was conditionally sanctioned by World Rugby in Dublin on Thursday morning and pending final approvals from host unions, will begin in February next year.
In a release issued on Thursday, Global Rapid Rugby revealed seven of the “proposed” teams for the competition teams would come from (or be based in): Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Fiji, Samoa, and Japan, along with the Western Force.
Rapid Rugby itself will be run out of Hong Kong and governed by the Hong Kong Rugby Union, which will serve to remove Rugby Australia as the operational authority of the comp, as it was for World Series Rugby.
National unions like RA and the Japanese Rugby Football Union will still need to sign off on teams participating in Rapid Rugby but Forrest’s team are confident the 14-round competition will kick off in late February and run alongside Super Rugby.
Six governing bodies have already signed letters of support, the Rapid Rugby statement said.
Like World Series Rugby this year – which saw the Force play seven invitational games – Rapid Rugby plans to introduce law trials and innovations, such as cutting the traditional 80-minute game back to 70, with two halves of 35 minutes.
Former Wallaby Matt Hodgson, who is Rapid Rugby’s head of rugby, said the competition will ban kicking out on the full to try and increase the ball-in-play time and increase attack and excitement levels.
Forrest said Rapid Rugby planned to sign 20 marquee players to spread across the teams and ensure a competitive competition.
“We have committed to recruiting around 20 of the best 100 players in the world today over the next two seasons,” Forrest said
“They will be placed in different teams, depending on the team’s needs in the interests of creating a level field across all teams. We have already started, signing former All Black Jeremy Thrush to the Western Force.
“Beyond that, watch this space is all I’m allowed to say right now. But when I mention we’re targeting the very best available I do mean the very best.”
Revealed: Andrew Forrest’s vision for a bold new sports and entertainment revolution in the Asia Pacific region!— Global Rapid Rugby (@rapidrugby) November 15, 2018
After gaining provisional approval from World Rugby overnight, Global Rapid Rugby is here. https://t.co/HNgJ1R2Q25
World Rugby issued a statement on Thursday saying it had given conditional approval to a Rapid Rugby tournament being played “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,” World Rugby said.
Forrest said it was a significant step.
“It has not been a simple road,” he said in a video.
“I’d like to thank everyone that has been bold and brave enough to support this brand-new competition. 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.”
Law trials that Rapid Rugby propose to implement include:
- No direct kicks for touch from inside the 22m area to encourage ball-in-hand counter-attacks
- A power try, scored from a move starting inside a team’s own 22m area, will be worth nine points with no conversion
- Killing the ball for a penalty will not end the power try move
- Penalty goals are reduced from three to two points
- Defence a further 5m back at the scrum
- A team retains possession if the ball is kicked from their own 40m and bounces out in the opposition 22m
- No ‘mark’ call in the 22m area
- 10 rolling substitutions
- Reduced time for kick-offs and penalties
- Red-carded players can be replaced after 15 minutes
- An orange-card system for match review officials