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Ben Ryan defends 'RugbyX' concept

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Ben Ryan defends radical new 'RugbyX' concept

By PA Authors
By Online Editors

Ben Ryan views RugbyX as a radical new format that is essential if a younger audience is to be attracted to a sport with an ageing supporter base.

The O2 will host the debut event on October 29 when England, Ireland, France, Argentina and the USA compete in men’s and women’s competitions, with tickets going on sale on Friday.

Smaller indoor pitches, teams consisting of five players and simplified rules are all designed to produce a faster game that will broaden rugby’s appeal to families and sponsors.

Ryan, the technical director of RugbyX and former coach of the Fiji sevens team – who won gold at the 2016 Olympics – believes it can have the same impact as Twenty20 did on cricket.

“We want it to be attractive to new supporters by being easy to understand,” Ryan told Press Association Sport.

“The demographic for rugby supporters is older now and that trend is continuing. We want a new age group of supporters to come in and then move into other parts of the game. With that will come different types of sponsors.

“We need to do what cricket did by bringing in Twenty20 to attract a younger generation.

“Whether we like it or not, young people want shorter, sharper and faster versions of things. It will be an entertainments package.

“We’re hoping it will be closer to an NBA game at Madison Square Garden rather than 80-minute XV-a-side rugby that is more about the game’s intricacies.

“Ten-minute games with music and entertainment and all the other stuff that will bring the game to life like live statistics for the fastest player, who runs the most, lowest heart rate etc are what kids want these days.

“Cricket is a great example. Purists will always enjoy a five-day Test match, which won’t disappear. But on top of that you have one-day and Twenty20 games.

“Shorter versions of games are coming in everywhere as other sports look for new fans.

“Rugby is the same marketplace and people have a number of things they can choose to see and do.”

Rather than seeing RugbyX as having the potential to eat into the supporter base for sevens, Ryan insists the formats will complement each other.

“Teams will mainly be international sevens players. Everything is aligned to the season plan, so it doesn’t clash with other rugby events, especially the World Sevens Series,” he said.

“It will supplement and significantly increase sevens players’ salaries – most of them aren’t paid much at all and like Olympic athletes, are on the bread line.

“We’re not looking to compete with sevens, we see it as an entry level event that will add to the sport.

“There’s always a risk with something new and people will think it’s a novelty. It’s up to us to convince people that it’s a product that will add value.”

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Ben Ryan defends radical new 'RugbyX' concept