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Nine-point 'power' tries, 10/22 kicks and no 22 safety: Global Rapid Rugby

The Western Force’s competition has been using some interesting law variations.

WESTERN FORCE SUFFERED heartbreak when Rugby Australia decided to cut them from Super Rugby in 2017, but the Perth-based club have moved on and are now pursuing very different interests.

Backed by local billionaire Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest, the Force – having played ‘World Series Rugby’ in 2018 – are behind a new competition called Global Rapid Rugby, featuring some interesting law variations.

The competition is in a ‘Showcase’ season for 2019, with planned expansion for a genuine league across the Asia Pacific region from 2020.

Ball Even the ball is eye-catching in Global Rapid Rugby.

So far this year, the Force have played a World XV, the South China Tigers and the Asia Pacific Dragons, with games against Fijian and Samoan sides ahead in the coming months.

Global Rapid Rugby has been marketed as “a bold new brand of sports and entertainment” and they have stressed that this is “sport without the boring bits.” 

The pre-match shows have featured lots of singing, dancing and fireworks, and even some whip-cracking from Nick ‘The Honey Badger’ Cummins last weekend.

The in-your-face style of presentation has included interviews on the pitch with try-scorers directly after they’ve dotted down and lots of reminders for the viewer just how exciting this product is.

The show around the rugby won’t be to some people’s tastes and after there were over 11,000 at the Showcase opener against the World XV in Perth, a smaller crowd of around 8,000 people showed up for the clash with the Tigers – whose star name was 33-year-old former England wing Tom Varndell. 

The Force will need local support for Global Rapid Rugby – as well as interest around the Asia Pacific region – if the competition is to survive and grow, but the stuff on the pitch has perhaps been of most interest to the neutral rugby viewer.

HB The Honey Badger - who played for an invitational World XV team - on Instagram while being interviewed on the sidelines.

Global Rapid Rugby features a number of eye-catching law variations, designed with the aim of making the game more exciting.

Games are 10 minutes shorter, consisting of two 35-minute halves in order to “meet expectations of a rapid viewing experience at the stadium and on screens across the globe.” 

Adding to that intent for a rapid game of rugby, the match clocks tick down from 35:00 in each half, rather than ticking up.

One of the key unique features is nine-point ‘power tries,’ whereby the attacking team gets rewarded for any try-scoring passage of play that begins inside their own 22. 

While that passage can include penalties conceded by the defensive team, the idea is to encourage teams to attack from deep inside their own half to score coast-to-coast tries.

We get an example below, as the Force catch a restart inside their own 22…

22

By sixth phase, the Force have worked their way outside their own 22 and produce some slick offloading to release number eight Brynard Stander up the right-hand side…

22 Attack

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Stander is able to offload to Fijian wing Masivesi Dakuwaqa to beat the last defender and score under the posts.

Finish

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Dakuwaqa actually needn’t have rounded under the sticks in this case, given that ‘power tries’ don’t require conversions – they yield an instant nine points.

Adding to the incentive to run the ball out of your own 22 is the fact that the safety valve of kicking directly to touch from inside the 22 has been removed in Global Rapid Rugby.

Any kick into touch on the full – even from inside your own 22 – means a lineout for the opposition from where the kick was taken. Again, the idea is that teams will attack with ball in hand.

The Force actually suffered at the hands of this law variation against the Dragons, with a kick out on the full from inside their 22 leading to a Dragons lineout that, in turn, led to a try for back row Michael McKee.

There is another kicking variation in Global Rapid Rugby that is of particular interest to the rest of the sport, with the 50/22 law trial set to take place in some competitions after the 2019 World Cup.

Global Rapid Rugby has a 10/22 variation they call the ‘precision kick.’ Essentially, if someone kicks from behind their own 10-metre line and the ball bounces inside the opposition 22 before going into touch, the kicking team gets the throw into the lineout.

We saw a valuable example in the Force’s win over the World XV as one-time Connacht out-half Andrew Deegan found huge distance.

Kick

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The general idea behind variations like the 10/22 is to ensure defences keep players in the backfield, rather than filling the defensive frontline and reducing space for the attack, but the scenario above is slightly different.

The Force have just won a turnover, meaning the World XV have not had time to organise their defence and they have little backfield cover. 

Deegan takes advantage of the 10/22 variation wonderfully and the Force are given the throw into the ensuing lineout.

The Force actually score from this lineout after some battering close-range phases, with try-scorer Brad Lacey immediately interviewed after dotting down.

IV

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Global Rapid Rugby also has a different approach to replacements, with rolling substitutions allowed.

There is a maximum of 10 substitutions per team but tactical changes can be made at any time, with players entitled to return to the action after being taken off earlier.

A slightly different bonus-point system applies to the Showcase league table too.

Scoring four tries earns one bonus point, as does winning by three tries or more, meaning the Force have secured four bonus points in their opening three games.  Losing by five points or less also means one bonus point.

Global Rapid Rugby continues this weekend with a clash between the South China Tigers and the Asia Pacific Dragons in Hong Kong.

That the Dragons have included 43-year-old Sireli Bobo in their starting team might raise a few eyebrows, but the growth of rugby in Asia – particularly after Super Rugby opted to dump the Sunwolves – can only be a good thing.

RUGBY WESTERN FORCE FIJI Andrew Forrest is the man behind Global Rapid Rugby. Source: AAP/PA Images

The development or otherwise of Global Rapid Rugby – they’re promising an eight-team league from 2020 onwards – will be intriguing to follow, particularly with their law variations in play.

“This is the rugby we have imagined, not the rugby we have experienced before,” Forrest told the West Australian after the Force hammered the Dragons 42-10.

“We have a faster, free-flowing, fantastic game. To see the reaction of the crowd and the joy on the faces of the players has been completely fulfilling.

“World Rugby are delighted by how this has gone. They are delighted by the super-speed of the game. All the skills of the game are there in a still physical game.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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