Pic: Rugby X Facebook Page
Since it’s official World Rugby approval a few months ago, most media outlets were talking about this brand-new “accelerated” rugby format which led to plenty of discussions within the rugby community about the need for yet another version of the oval-shaped game. Bearing in mind that besides the traditional 15s (union) and 13s (league) formats, there is the Olympic 7-a-side adaptation plus attractive alternatives such as touch, tag and beach rugby.
However, former England and Fiji Sevens coach Ben Ryan concluded that it is time for a heavily simplified form of rugby which cuts out a lot of the usual elements. Ryan argues that “if the game was thriving, participation was rising, stadiums were full and things were going through the roof, I’d accept that. But none of those things is happening. It’s a challenge in a very traditional sport. I thought it would be cool to have a game that takes the coach away.”
The outcome of this thinking is Rugby X: 5-a-side on a half-sized pitch (55m x 32m), without lineouts and posts, but 3-man-scrums. The game starts and restarts with a tap and go. What’s most unusual is probably the fact that it’s played indoors, which is of course not compulsory, but creates a very special atmosphere. However, Rugby X has not just cut out a lot of the “traditional” rules and requirements but also contains some exciting new elements. For example, the game restarts after a player has been in touch with a quick throw-in by an “active” substitute. If a match is tied after 10-minutes, a 1 v 1 determines the winner.
Rugby X looks and feels a lot like 7s, but more simplified and more exhilarating as there are literally no breaks during the 10-minute bout, which has no half-time break. The squad sizes are like in 7s, 12 per team and it’s wise to use the subs efficiently which is much needed. Although it’s only 10 minutes a match, there is so much action, that it’s absolutely exhausting. Some teams even go for a classic hockey-substitution, with 5 off, 5 on, after an attack.
Probably the biggest difference of all compared to “old-school” rugby is the atmosphere. Staged at the impressive O2 Arena in London, with a magnificent special effect show the event looked and felt like an NBA match. Much credit to the organisers for pulling off such an incredible show which was well-attended considering it was the very first time that Rugby X was played.
The arena was filled with plenty of youngsters cheering the teams on and enjoying a truly unique rugby event. Surely, the launch event provided the organisers plenty of food for thought and certain rules and regulations require some tweaking, but overall Rugby X looks incredible and feels a bit like a game-changer.