Global Rapid Rugby will launch a unique combination of elite sport and super-charged entertainment with a 14 match Showcase Series in six venues throughout Asia, the Pacific and Australasia this year.
The series kicks off in three weeks, on Friday March 22, when Perth’s Western Force goes head-to-head with the star-studded World XV combination, led by former Australian Test and New Zealand Crusaders coach Robbie Deans.
Teams from Hong Kong, Fiji, Singapore and Samoa will play and host games, with venues in New Zealand and east-coast Australia part of the Showcase Series as well. On top of that, Rapid Rugby will be played on the eve of a historic Bledisloe Cup clash between the Wallabies and All Blacks in Perth.
The appearance of rugby’s World XV for the first match, along with a full-scale pre-match entertainment package including fireworks, live music and circus stunts, will ensure a spectacular Showcase opener.
Deans experienced a version of the Rapid Rugby rules when his Japanese club team, the Panasonic Wild Knights, played in Perth last year and believes the brand will be a big hit with players and fans alike.
“The ‘All Stars’ concept of the World XV lends itself to the excitement and entertainment at the forefront of Rapid Rugby and is the perfect vehicle to promote the brand within a Showcase Series,” Deans said.
“Our squad is comprised of a core of experienced Test players, 10 in all, who will lead a group that also includes a number of promising youngsters with big futures ahead of them.”
After the World XV game, teams from Fiji, Samoa, Hong Kong, Singapore and Western Force will play in separate six game tri-series contests.
The Asia Showcase Series, between the South China Tigers out of Hong Kong, Asia Pacific Dragons in Singapore and the Western Force, begins on March 29. The Pacific Showcase Series will be played between the Force, Fijian Latui and Kagifa Samoa from May 18.
Teams will play at least two matches in their home market; however, construction work on Samoa’s main stadium means its ‘home’ games will be played in Queensland and Auckland.
Winners of the Asia and the Pacific series will access an AUD50,000 prize purse to assist local community rugby programs.
Rapid Rugby has partnered with global broadcast company Input Media to produce a live turnkey production, while negotiations are continuing with leading Asia Pacific TV networks and online broadcasters to televise games and highlights.
Head of Rugby, Matt Hodgson, said teams are now eager to bring the excitement of Rapid Rugby to local supporters, as well as test themselves under new laws that reward attacking, free-scoring play.
“The Western Force against an international line-up coached by Robbie Deans is a perfect stage to launch the Rapid Rugby Showcase. I have been asked ‘when does it start’ and ‘who will be playing’ wherever I go, so I know there is plenty of interest,” Hodgson said.
“I also appreciate that a lot of people have been waiting for the 2019 draw to be released, so thank you for your patience. If it’s half as good as we expect, it will be worth the wait.
“It’s so exciting to know that this new brand of sport and entertainment will soon be on show in Fiji, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand and both sides of Australia. I hope it’s the beginning of something very special for the entire Asia Pacific region, its local communities and for rugby itself,” Hodgson said.