Rapid Rugby’s rapid growth


Supplied by Rapid Rugby

Western Force loose forward Henry Stowers

Joshua Smith, Reporter

It’s been a year since the launch of Global Rapid Rugby, and Perth’s contribution to the world of sport is already passing international borders.

In March this year, the Western Force kicked off the second season of Rapid Rugby by facing the World XV – a team consisting of international rugby union players for various countries.

Rapid Rugby is the Western Force’s response to being removed from the international Super Rugby tournament in 2017. Perth businessman Andrew Forrest teamed up with former Wallaby and Western Force flanker Matt Hodgson to create a new competition for their beloved team.

Hodgson, who is the head of rugby for Global Rapid Rugby and the Western Force, said after Rugby Australia announced the removal of the Western Force from Super Rugby, a team came together and spent months creating the brain-child that is Rapid Rugby.

“We thought: how do we keep the game of rugby alive in Perth?”

Rapid Rugby kicked off in 2018 with a seven-game series that was solely based in Perth and the competition brought in crowds of long-time rugby fans and newcomers alike.

After the success of the series, Rapid Rugby received World Rugby endorsement late last year and it has already expanded to an international market. This week, the Force fly out to play games in Singapore, Hong Kong, Fiji and New Zealand.

“It’s exciting to take what we created over here in Perth abroad,” Hodgson said.

Rapid Rugby, however, is not your ordinary game of rugby union.

Along with some key law changes designed to keep the game fast-paced and full of action, Global Rapid Rugby has combined the game of rugby with free off-field entertainment including rides, live music and family activities.

Hodgson said the entertainment side of the game is what separates Rapid Rugby from other sports around Australia.

“We’re mixing match-day entertainment and a festival atmosphere that you would see at a rock concert or at other entertainment precincts around the world,” he said.

Hodgson says the creation of Global Rapid Rugby was inspired by other sporting events around the world – particularly in the United States – that provide the overall best fan experience.

Hodgson said: “NFL and the NBA have bigger crowds outside the actual stadium that get involved and enjoy the experience.”

Along with the off-field entertainment, the on-field experience is designed to be equally exciting.

So, how does Rapid Rugby differ to conventional rugby union?

For a start, each half has been trimmed to 35 minutes as opposed to the standard 40.

Western Force outside back Clay Uyen said though the five minutes each half may seem trivial, it makes a big difference on the field.

“There’s no time to really settle in to it. You’ve got to hit the ground running.”

The game also introduced the Power Try: any team that manages to score a try through continuous phases of play from inside their own 22 meter line scores nine points without the need for a conversion.

Keeping the quick counter-attack as a core part of the game, this year introduced a new law that teams can no longer kick the ball out on the full inside their own defensive 22: if this happens, the ball will be turned over to the opposition from where the kick was taken.

Rolling substitutions have also been introduced, with a limit of 10 per team.

“Because of the nature of the game, all of the blokes are moving a lot more. There’s a lot of running, and a lot of big boppers flying,” Uyen said.

Uyen helped the Force secure a convincing 32-point win against the Asia Pacific Dragons on Friday night, playing alongside young Carlo Tizzano and Issak Fines who debuted for the team this weekend.

Hodgson attributes the game’s rising success to its accessibility to those who may not have enjoyed rugby before, and the thrill of the fast-paced matches for rugby fanatics.

“It’s for everyone. From young families, to students, to young adults, to the older generation, there’s something for everyone on a match day to enjoy,” he said.

Uyen said even in these early days, this reimagining of classic rugby union is something he and the rest of the team are proud to be a part of.

“All we can hope is that our brand of rugby can give the people what they want.”