World 12s could change the face of rugby
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DURBAN – The rugby world is set to be rocked by the advent of an annual 12-aside extravaganza along the lines of the Indian Premier League, with the world’s best players in smaller numbered teams so that there will be more space for running rugby.
The concept of the tournament was launched today in an international zoom conference which included coaching heavyweights in World Cup winners Steve Hansen and Jake White, while former star players Schalk Burger (South Africa) and Ugo Monye (England) extolled the virtues of a competition that will line the pockets of players in the way it has made cricketers among the wealthiest sportsmen in the world.
But before everybody gets too excited, World 12s still has to be ratified by World Rugby although tournament organiser Ian Ritchie, formerly the CEO of England’s RFU, says talks with the global runners of rugby have commenced and are “at an early stage”.
In a nutshell, the tournament would feature eight teams; 192 of the world’s best players; eight world-renowned coaches; games would be played 15 minutes each way in a tournament that would run for three weeks; and there would be some law modifications to allow for free-flowing, exciting rugby.
Former All Blacks coach Hansen said that rugby needed change.
“The game of rugby has been around a long time and maybe we have become a bit complacent with the product,” he said. “This concept is an opportunity to change the face of rugby with something fast and entertaining that can still include both big and little players. It is also an opportunity to simply some of the laws.”
Hansen added that this type of competition would allow for players from all over the world “to rub shoulders with each other and learn (as they do with the Barbarians)."
White said that a money-spinner such as this would be great for South Africa in that it would help to keep players in the country.
“This would be a three-week block in which players could make money,” the Bulls coach said. “If local franchises allowed players to go to this tournament to boost their income considerably, they would then have less motivation to go to the Northern Hemisphere. The player drain hurts South Africa and World 12s could help stop that.”
Burger joked that he might want to make a comeback so he could be involved in World 12s.
“When I was playing and the IPL was launched, the players wondered how great it would be if we could have a rugby equivalent,” he said. “Now that it is on the horizon, I think excitement will be off the charts. Rugby is at a point where it needs change and this is the platform to do it.”