Global Rapid Rugby 2020: What is next for GRR?
Now that the Global Rapid Rugby 2019 Showcase season is over, sights are already set on the GRR 2020 which is looking to expand the rugby union series with more teams and a wider geographic reach in the Asia-Pacific.
2019 GRR Showcase Series
The Perth based Western Force were the runaway winners in the Asian and Pacific Series, winning both titles and went through the games undefeated.
Although the newly formed teams in Asia (Hong Kong backed South China Tigers and Singapore based Asia Pacific Dragons) and from Fiji (Fijian Latui) and Samoa (Kagifa Samoa) did well, they will all have to improve to match the Force in 2020. The full results and fixtures can be seen here on the GRR website.
We are unsure how much of an impact the marquee players had for the franchises. Also, the decision to change the season to a showcase series caused some disruptions to plans and team preparations so perhaps this is not the best season to judge it on.
However, 2020 is a post-Rugby World Cup year, and the already massive exodus of professional and test capped from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand (predominantly to Japan and Europe) should mean that the GRR should also be able to capture some big names looking for a move.
Obviously, finances will play a big part in this and convincing the players that GRR has a bright and lucrative future.
RWC 2019 selections
So far, 4 Western Force players did make the provisional squads for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan; Henry Stowers, AJ Alatimu, Henry Taefu were invited to join the Samoan squad, while Marcel Brache is in the US Eagles squad. Stowers said “Being here at the Western Force and playing in the Rapid Rugby Showcase was the perfect place for me and gave me the opportunity to show the Samoan selectors what I could offer.”
Did the GRR rule changes work?
Questionable. We have never liked the catchphrase “No more boring” as we found disrespectful to rugby and to be honest the rule changes in GRR didn’t make the games that much better. The rugby games were quicker but were they much better in excitement or quality?
The GRR website says “we’ve reduced the time of each half to 35min each. That’s 10min less than a traditional rugby match is currently played, and while it might not sound like a big difference, we’ve spoken to a lot of key stakeholders in the game and they agree this simple change creates a sense of urgency.” We are not sure this was the case at all.
More running rugby
Again without seeing all the data it’s tough to asses. GRR explains that the main changes in their 10/22 rule were to speed up the game and promote running rugby. What we found is that fans and sometimes the players were confused by the rule but it did limit the aerial kicking contest that is very common in traditional rugby union rules and forced teams to run the ball as they didn’t have the safety of the 22m clearance kicks.
9 point power tries
The idea was nice, but in all the GRR Showcase games only a few 9 point power tries were scored. The idea is that team tries, scored from within their own 22m line, are awarded this power try, and results in an automatic 9 point haul (no conversion required). It wasn’t utilised that often but there is a novelty factor that could make it interesting to keep on as a permanent GRR rule change.
New Global Rapid Rugby teams in 2020?
Global Rapid Rugby from the onset has said that expansion to new territories will be key.
On their website, it says “Expansion is a key part of our planning and in 2020 we will look to the east coast of Australia, representation from New Zealand (either playing from a NZ base or potentially in Asia), as well as Japan and Hawaii. With interest throughout the region already high, further growth is anticipated to come from countries including China, India, the UAE, Sri Lanka and Korea. Investment in China and India will start immediately, developing rugby in schools and communities, establishing player and coach pathways and engaging the fan base.”
The team in Malaysia already had a name, but little more is known about the Malaysian Valke other than it has support from the South African Currie Cup division one club Falcons.
Hawaiian GRR franchise
A new Facebook page has been set up and although there is nothing concrete, the page does say “This page’s intention is to share news and build a fan community for the proposed upcoming Hawaii Franchise. A community to discuss ideas about the expansion of professional Rugby into Hawaii and the USA. Please invite your friends and family and rugby pals to follow this exciting era of RUGBY in Hawaii and Asia-Pacific.”
The Samoa franchise CEO Richard Fale, told RNZ “The best way to view these games that we’re playing is as a job interview for 2020 and beyond….We have two franchises that will be operating in the Global Rapid Rugby competition – there’s a Hawaii franchise and the Samoa franchise – so there are 70 positions that we need to fill.”
Fale also hinted at plans for both the Kagifa Samoa and the new Hawaii franchise to conduct their pre-season training in Hawaii ahead of the 2020 season “with one team based on Maui and the other on Oahu, while also travelling to California and New York and spreading games between Samoa, Australia, New Zealand and the US.”
Other Asian teams in Global Rapid Rugby?
The other Asian countries that were mentioned; China, India, Sri Lanka and Korea all had their national teams compete in the Asia Men’s Rugby Championships (ARMC), and it is clear more game time is needed at a high level.
Perhaps these nations could use the GRR in the same way that Argentina has used the Jaguares in Super Rugby to build an even more competitive team at international level in recent years.
Especially now that the proposed World Rugby Nations Championship plans have been scrapped, you would think the Asian nations would be looking at more ways to get their rugby players and national rugby teams even more game time.
China, India, Sri Lanka and Korea men’s national XVs teams all had some mixed fortunes in their ARMC 2019 campaigns and also all experienced some big losses and would need a lot of changes to win their respective divisions and compete with the likes of Hong Kong and Japan in Asia.
Did the rugby fans buy into GRR?
Probably the most important question, and again one that will have mixed arguments.
Even the Western Force at home did not have packed out, sold-out crowds, and the same can be said for the games in Singapore and Hong Kong when the Asia Pacific Dragons and South China Tigers were playing at home respectively. A lot was made of the carnival and family fun atmosphere the GRR was trying to promote, but it needs more than fireworks and face-painting, it really needs the rugby fans to buy into the concept and put “bums on seats”.
It’s without a doubt, the rugby teams in the Pacific and in Asian could really benefit from the competition, but as the decline in crowd attendances in competitions like Super Rugby have shown, the fans need to turn up to games. This will not only impress potential advertisers, sponsors and broadcasters, but it will also give the players much more motivation playing in front of full stadiums.
You also feel that the franchises need better support, and professional teams helping them with branding, online presence and the marketing aspects. Only the Tigers and Force had websites and the social media for the other franchises have a long way to go.
We will have to wait until 2020 to see if Andrew “Twiggy”‘ Forrest’s rugby revolution dream becomes a reality.
What is your view on Global Rapid Rugby? Let us know.