The first Rugby X event – featuring both men and women – has been confirmed for October 29, 2019 at London’s iconic O2 Arena. But just what is it? Below we take a look at five things you need to know about this new tournament...
Rugby X is a new five-a-side format to debut in London on October 29. It will be held at the O2 Arena and will involve both men’s and women’s teams. It will kick off during the later stages of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Conventional rugby union involves 15 players in each team, but this will see just five on each side play against each other. It will be played on a smaller artificial pitch without posts, with matches lasting just 10 minutes and with no half-time. The rules include uncontested three-man scrums, substitutes taking quick-throw line-outs, restarts with a tap-and-go from the goal-line and no change of ends.
The hope is that Rugby X becomes rugby union’s version of T20 cricket and becomes popular around the world. Rugby union already has the 15-a-side game and sevens, which holds tournaments around the world. But the belief is that a five-a-side fast-paced format could appeal more to young people with the emphasis on skill and speed, instead of power, structure and size. The inaugural event at the O2 will feature sevens players from the international teams of England, Ireland, France, Argentina and the USA.
The Target Audience
Rugby union is struggling to attract kids to play it at grassroots level in the UK, so Rugby X has been designed to target children, particularly those in inner-city areas where facilities are rare. Much like T20, it will be accompanied by music and fireworks, with a focus on glitz and glamour. Five competitions of Rugby X will be held around the world, starting in London. Sydney and Paris are expected to hold events next year.
The Safety Issue
The sport is battling issues around player welfare, concussions and injuries as collisions get bigger and bigger. There is huge concern in rugby union now over the long-term effects of head knocks and brain injury as players become stronger than ever before. As Rugby X will involve only 10 players on the field, instead of a total of 30, the collisions will not be as hard and the focus will be on using space and smarts to beat your opponents, instead of strength.
The Big Name Backers
Rugby X has already won support from many big names in international rugby union, such as England’s 2003 World Cup-winning forward Lawrence Dallaglio.
He said: “I hope it’ll do for rugby what T20 has done for cricket. It’s a really interesting attempt to make the game more accessible. I know that rugby can be complicated and this should be easily digestible with hopefully try after try after try. And if games can’t be decided by full-time it’ll be a one v one attacker-defender situation, rugby’s super over if you like. It’s an innovative and exciting way to bring rugby to people.”
Great Britain’s Olympic rugby sevens gold-winning coach Ben Ryan is another who has got behind it. He believes it will revolutionise the code.
It will bring new players and supporters into the sport. I see it as a really exciting variation on the game.