The much-anticipated kick-off to the first-ever Global Rapid Rugby home-and-away competition is almost here, and excitement is building among players, coaches, administrators and fans alike.
The first of 10 rounds gets underway in Suva, where the Fijian Latui hosts newcomers the China Lions. This will be followed by a double-header at HBF Park in Perth where Manuma Samoa will face the South China Tigers, followed by the hometown heroes, the Western Force, taking on Malaysia Valke.
Global Rapid Rugby CEO Mark Evans says he’s expecting a wonderful competition.
“We are extremely excited at the prospect that the tournament holds for rugby in the Asia Pacific region. I can’t wait to see the talents of the various countries being showcased – from the traditional powerhouses in Australasia, to the potential in the Asian market, through to the raw talent of the Pacific Islands”.
Evans’ enthusiasm and excitement has been echoed by his counterparts at the participating Unions with a common them being the opportunity that the tournament presents for players and the game alike.
Fiji Rugby Union CEO John O’Connor said: “With Global Rapid Rugby we are entering an exciting new phase for Fijian rugby as it provides further opportunities for us to grow the game and develop talent. Exposure to high-quality opposition is a huge benefit for our younger players who will be gaining invaluable exposure to elite competition”.
Samoa Rugby Union CEO Vincent Fepuleai describes Global Rapid Rugby as “one of the most exciting developments in international rugby in recent years”.
“We are very excited by the prospects that Global Rapid Rugby holds for both our organisation and our players, who have much to gain through the exposure that this new tournament will provide”.
Malaysia Valke CEO Jurie Coetzee said: “This is undoubtedly the biggest rugby initiative in many years. I feel honoured and privileged to be able to partner with the best of Malaysia and to bring a professional product to this part of Asia”.
Robbie Mc Robbie, CEO of the Hong Kong Rugby Union, represented by the South China Tigers added: “Global Rapid Rugby is raising the bar for sports entertainment in the Asia Pacific region, and the South China Tigers are excited to be part of this literally game-changing competition. Our Tigers are ready to roar!”
The respective coaches have been hard at work in recent weeks, managing training camps and warm-up games, fine-tuning game plans, honing their players’ skills, and brushing up on the tournament’s innovative laws to gain maximum impact.
They too are brimming with excitement as the first round draws closer.
“We are really excited about Global Rapid Rugby – it is a great opportunity for our players to showcase their ability on an international stage,” said China Lions coach Clayton McMillan.
“The innovative laws have been great for our coaching group in terms of challenging the way we approach the game and the opportunities that exist with the law changes. Kick strategy will form a large part of our experimentation over the first three games of the tournament”.
Western Force coach Tim Sampson said: “We have placed a huge emphasis on fitness and work-rate in recent weeks in preparation for a faster game where the ball is in play for longer periods. We are excited, we have prepared well and we will have to make sure we stay composed”.
Director of coaching for the Malaysia Valke, Rudy Joubert, says he is privileged to be a part of Global Rapid Rugby.
“The Asia Pacific region is going to go from strength to strength as a result of this tournament. Malaysia, specifically, is going to benefit enormously from Rapid Rugby,” Joubert said.
As players get ready to lace their boots and get out onto the park, fans in the participating countries have been assured that they will not miss a second of the action with the announcement that all 31 games will broadcast live via YouTube on the Global Rapid Rugby website, rapidrugby.com.
Online provider Kayo Sports will also broadcast all 31 games to 400,000 subscribers in Australia, Sky Sports will show matches in New Zealand, and there will also be live matches on Fiji Broadcasting Corporation and TV1 Samoa.
Ten rounds of matches will be played between March 14 and May 23, with a one-off Grand Final to decide the Season One champion on June 6.