World Rugby has approved a new version of sport, Rugby X -a radical five-a-side that could revolutionaise its finances and global appeal in the way that Twenty20 has transformed cricket according to The Times.
Rugby X is to be played indoors paving way for an international tournament in London in 2019 as five tournaments around the World are planned for 2020.
Ben Ryan, 47, the former England Sevens coach who led Fiji to the Olympic title in Rio de Janeiro, has been involved in developing the new format and trial matches have been played.
Rugby X will follow the game’s traditional laws although some will have to be amended. There will be no half-time, with the emphasis on a fast, dynamic contest. Three-man scrums will be uncontested and lineouts will be replaced by a quick throw taken by a substitute from the team in possession.
After a try is scored, play will resume from the defending team’s tryline to ensure a quick restart. There will be no change of ends.
If the initial tournament is a success, there are plans to expand, with Paris and Sydney both interested in hosting events. Five tournaments are provisionally planned for 2020 and the intention is to expand to ten venues, which could lead to the development of a sevens-style world series.
The new format, featuring ten-minute matches on an artificial grass pitch built to the same specification as those used by Saracens and Newcastle Falcons in the Gallagher Premiership, will be aimed at a young, event-going audience but has also been designed to appeal to traditional fans on television.
England has agreed to host the first tournament, which will be staged at The O2 arena in London in October. The world’s leading sevens nations — England, Australia, France, Kenya, Wales and Fiji — are potential participants in an event that will feature men’s and women’s competitions.