As the rugby World gears up for its showpiece event this Saturday, you could be forgiven for thinking that the game is in rude health. However, there is a demographic that is not being reached, Rugby X, which launches on October the 29th at the O2 arena in London, hopes to address that. Targeting a younger, inner city and (non-public) school scene; the new 5-on-5 format championed by Ben Ryan is rugby’s equivalent of the hundred in cricket. The game which is fast, easy to play and exciting to watch brings the established sport to a new target audience and sponsors with the overall intention of growing viewing and playing participation by showcasing the basics of rugby.
Modeled on 7’s and its successful World Tour series – specifically the Twickenham leg, the majority of players will move across for the inaugural event, with the added bonus of enhanced and fairer salaries for all participants – regardless of nation. Players from international men and women’s teams (including the Barbarians), complete with their own nicknames, will have the opportunity to showcase their skills to a free-to-air television audience right as World Cup fever takes hold.
This may be rugby as you know it in all but name… There will be no half time, no changing of ends, no posts no lineouts and no scrums. A restart mid-play takes place from a readied sub on the side- line throwing in the ball and after scoring a try the opposition can play out from the 10m line and with constant rolling subs you can expect a fast paced and furious affair. All play will take place on an indoor pitch, 50m x 35m (roughly the size of a basketball court). The intention is to have 75% ball in play time as opposed to 50% for 7’s and even less for 15’s. Test events have shown that attritional play wont work, it will be almost impossible to manage consecutive rucks, with fast paced offloading likely to be the most effective strategy. Perhaps one of the most anticipated features of Rugby X is the prospect of a series of one-on-one showdowns to settle the match if scores are tied after the allotted 10 minutes – think an ice hockey style shootout. This will all add to the party atmosphere inclusive of music and lightshows all packaged into a manageable two-hour session perfect for the terrestrial TV audience.
It may not work and it may not be for you if you’re a purist – but this event is certainly worth approaching with an open mind as it may represent a portion of the future of the game we know and love.
Written by James Jones