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Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest’s new competition, rebranded as Global Rapid Rugby, has received the green light from World Rugby. Forrest announced the sanction approval on Twitter via a studio-produced video Thursday, following the World Rugby Council’s vote to sanction the league.
“The name Global Rapid Rugby, it does suit the philosophy of fast moving, free-scoring, festival of entertainment,” said Forrest. “Brand new name for a bold beginning.”
The competition is set to launch in February with six teams, “owned and operated by a mixture of private enterprise and the preexisting team administrations.”
The teams are Forrest’s Western Force (home of Eagle Marcel Brache), the South China Tigers based in Hong Kong, the Singapore Dragons, and teams in Japan, Samoa and Fiji. A rumored Hawaiian team did not make the cut. Forrest announced there will be a three-week playoff culminating in a June grand final. The Japanese team is apparently being fielded by the Japanese union, as is the Hong Kong team.
Standing out amongst some of the particulars in the announcement were law changes. GRR will play 70-minute matches with 35-minute halves. Open subs. They plan to eliminate scenarios where teams can kick directly into touch from within their own 22. Limit the amount of players in the defensive line.
“The name and the logo speak to everything Rapid Rugby will be, a rapid game style and broadcast, rapid development of new talent and new rugby markets, rapid game day experience, and rapid growth of local communities,” Forrest said.
Another variation at play is a “power try”. It was trialed during the Force’s barnstorming exhibition season earlier this year, with teams receiving an automatic seven points for tries originating from inside their defensive 22. Forrest said they’ll be worth nine points going forward, with no conversion kick needed.
The winner of this competition will take home a $1 million prize. Forrest has promised to recruit 20 of the top players in the world to disburse throughout the league, hinting at former All Blacks Dan Carter and Duane Vermuelen, as well as former Wallaby Sean McMahon. The Force recently inked former All Black lock Jeremy Thrush.
Hong Kong will manage the competition, not Rugby Australia, home of Forrest and his Force. He wanted to bypass the bureaucracy of Rugby Australia, from which he struggled to gain approval for this venture, and Hong Kong was an eager taker of the responsibility.
The concept for Global Rapid Rugby was spawned when the Western Force were booted from Super Rugby, the preeminent professional competition in the southern hemisphere, and arguably the best in the word. With nowhere to play, Forrest put together GRR.
Getting the thumbs up from rugby’s governing bodies hasn’t been easy. The process turned controversial when Forrest hired World Rugby vice chairman and USA Rugby board member Gus Pichot while he was still seeking sanction from Rugby Australia, which resides one rung below World Rugby in the chain of command.