Photo credit: Hong Kong Rugby Union
In line with their aspirations to "seek out more and more competition at a high level", the Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) have announced their decision to field a team in the newly-christened Global Rapid Rugby (GRR) format.
The Hong Kong squad will be comprised of players drawn from the Union's own Elite Rugby Programme, Elite Sevens Athletes Programme, existing Hong Kong fifteens and sevens representatives, Premiership players and a number of 20 established stars from abroad set to be drafted into all teams, competing as the "South China Tigers".
Bankrolled by Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest, the tournament kicks off in late February 2019 and will also feature Australia's Western Force alongside sides from Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Fiji, Samoa and Hawaii- making for a tantalising Asia-Pacific affair.
Billed as a "revolutionary" format with new laws including 70-minute games, rolling substitutions and restrictions on kicking for touch, the aim is to produce a faster-paced, more attacking-minded brand of rugby as suggested by its name.
Selected as official GRR organisers, Hong Kong is set to take centrestage in this exciting new venture as teams compete for a AUD $1 million windfall.
Photo credit: South China Morning Post
HKRU CEO Robbie McRobbie has endorsed the competition as a chance to further the development of rugby in Hong Kong.
"Participating in this innovative new competition will help further our domestic aims, including seasoning and preparing our national team members for international competition, as well as assisting in our efforts to identify and retain eligible players to represent Hong Kong," he remarked.
“Given the establishment of our first ever professional rugby programmes in the last decade, and our current participation in the Rugby World Cup 2019 repechage in France, it makes sense at this juncture for the HKRU to seek out more and more competition at a high level."
Law changes are as follows:
*A reduction in playing time of five minutes each half to 35 minutes.
*No direct kicks for touch from inside the 22 metres to encourage ball in hand counter-attack
*A power try - scored from a move starting in the 22 metres- will be worth nine points with no conversion.
*Killing the ball for a penalty will not end the power try move
*Penalties reduced from three to two points
*Defence a further five metres back at the scrum
*A side retains possession if the ball is kicked from their own 40m and bounces out in the opposition 22 metres
*No 'mark" call in the 22 metres
*Ten Rolling substitutions
*Reduced time for kick-offs and penalties
*Red-carded players can be replaced after 15 minutes
*An orange card system for match review officials
*A bonus points system for scoring will be in place.