For whatever reason, be it the somewhat lackluster Lions tour or 18 months of Covid-19 hindering the sport, many feel the rugby game needs to change.
Step forward with World 12s, a new format for the game that promises to move the sport forward and find a new lucrative source of income.
“World 12s is a new rugby union tournament for our changing, fast-paced world,” said a statement following the announcement. “It’s an exciting format with the best players in the world.
“The players will be split into eight franchise teams and will compete annually over a period of three weeks in a 12-on-12 tournament around the world.”
Here you go.
But how is it supposed to work? And is that really feasible?
What is the difference between 12s and 15s?
According to a Q&A released by the new company, World 12s will follow current laws of the 15s, but with “some exciting tweaks”:
- 12 players on one team – six forwards and six return players
- 15 minute halves
- Conversions are just drop targets
- Just a scrum reset followed by a free kick
- Scrum violations are punished with a differential penalty (a penalty that cannot be kicked into the goal).
- In the knockout phase, if the games are tied in full, a golden point decides the winner
CONTINUE READING: The world’s best rugby players are up for auction when a shocking 12-player tournament is announced
It is still unclear why they have decided on 12 players per side, when already existing formats such as 7, 10 and even the rugby X format (five-a-side) are in use.
Watering down the market in a sport that is already quite divided on its sources of income seems like an odd move.
In terms of positions, the team consists of six backs and six forwards. There will be up to 24 players in each squad, with each franchise having to select at least two players from Tier 2 nations and one international U20 player to encourage development.
It is also suggested that a women’s tournament will be held in parallel with the men’s from 2023, with the World Cup in New Zealand excluding a start in 2022.
How does a typical tournament work and when would it take place?
For the men’s tournament in 2022, it is forecast that eight franchise teams will compete against each other once in a round robin format. There will be seven round robin game days with four games per day. The knockout phase is divided into a semi-final day and a final day, on which it is decided how the teams will be classified from first to eighth place.
It is planned to move the tournament to different global locations each year. England is expected to be the first host country in 2022.
As measured by the World 12s Declaration, discussions with key stakeholders are still at an early stage. They propose in late August / early September to be the appropriate window for this three-week tournament to be hosted in 2022, adding that “World 12s should complement the existing global rugby calendar”.
Given current concerns about player welfare and the frequency with which clubs see their star players, putting another tournament on an already crowded calendar is not the way to get through these discussions without much resistance.
World 12s claim that player welfare is vital to the sport as each game lasts 30 minutes and the amount of play time per player is limited on not exactly conducive to that.
Finding a real place on the calendar for what, despite seemingly impressive support, seems little more than another gimmick at the moment, will likely be the first of many logistical hurdles.
Who are the teams and which players would be involved?
So far we don’t know.
According to World 12s, the eight franchise teams will be decided by an auction that will take place later this year – that is, it will be up to the highest bidder to determine what those teams will look like.
The statement adds that the eight franchise teams will be determined by geographic location, with a strong focus on developing local players as well as improving participation from emerging markets.
The best players in the world are sold at auction and bought by the franchise teams. Each team has a squad of 24 players.
“The player auction will follow a similar format to the draft Cricket’s IPL or The Hundred. The eight franchise teams will be able to purchase players to build their team. The auction is expected to take place in early 2022.
Here, too, there is a little lack of detail.
Whatever the solution, it’s hard to say that eight franchises set by geographic location will grow the game as fans are completely absent from these new sites.
Also, while the Declaration states that some of the top 192 players will be involved, that is not a given.
If they included top players, there would be some interest in seeing the stars of both hemispheres team up in unlikely match-ups.
But at the expense of club rugby fans, who, especially in Wales, often starved to see their best players for their clubs on a regular basis, is test rugby so dominant? Well, that would be another kick in the teeth for loyal supporters when rugby no longer wants to risk neglecting them.
And above all, this format has not yet received any support from relevant bodies. Far from it, in fact.
Premiership Rugby only found out about the plans yesterday.
A PRL spokesman said: “We were made aware of the project on Monday to create a new 12-on-one tournament.
“We believe that any proposed new competition requires extensive consultation.
“It can only be seen in the broader context of player welfare and the already crowded global calendar.”
Regarding World Rugby, a statement said: “We are aware of the proposed new World 12s competition.
“While we welcome innovative thinking with the potential to advance the reach, appeal and growth of the sport, full consultation with organizers is required to understand the viability of the concept, particularly in the context of ongoing global calendar discussions and the focus area of wellbeing the player.”
Again, on that front, it’s hard to see that things are working without a few kinks ironed out.
So is it going to happen?
Well that is the big question.
Despite the big announcement and PR friendly language used, as a bettor you would still tend to have this not happen.
Everything they said screams this is not a gimmick, but there are so many logistical nightmares to overcome in order to get this off the ground.
Player welfare and clearance are the big issues. In terms of publication, World 12s financial support could cover the cost of the publication, but the fact that discussions with the relevant bodies are still at a very early stage doesn’t seem to bode well for the chances of this format.
Not when World Rugby has enough on its plate to discard.