Organisers of the glitzy new Brisbane Global Tens are hopeful it will give Super Rugby the high-profile summer springboard it has long needed.
Around 300 of world rugby’s biggest names will descend upon Suncorp Stadium in February next year for the two-day, 10-a-side carnival.
Fourteen clubs from around the world will be involved – the 10 Australian and New Zealand Super Rugby franchises, plus South Africa’s Blue Bulls, Japan’s Panasonic Wild Knights, the Samoan national team and French glamour club Toulon.
All sides will be contractually obligated to bring their biggest names.
“It makes a statement, it says bang – rugby’s back this year, get involved,” former Wallabies captain Nathan Sharpe said.
The Tens competition is the brainchild of New Zealand promoters Duco Events, who secured Queensland government funding and support for the venture.
Duco are also organisers of the Auckland Nines rugby league tournament.
The format is being talked up as the perfect hybrid between the lively rugby sevens and the more pure elements of the 15-a-side game.
“The set pieces will be genuine contests and with only ten players on the field there is a lot more space to attack,” said ex-Wallabies and current Panasonic boss Robbie Deans, who will have Berrick Barnes among his touring party.
“It’s a lot closer to the 15s than the sevens so all the front rowers are really biting at it,” said Chiefs hooker Hikawera Elliot.
With Super Rugby scheduled to begin a fortnight later, teams are expected to use the whole week as part of their pre-season preparations.
Practice matches, training sessions and fan days all on the cards.
Blues coach Tana Umaga said he’d be using the prospect of playing in the competition as a “little cherry” for his players to work hard in pre-season.
“No-one usually looks forward to pre-season training so it’ll put a light at the end of the tunnel, and something for these guys to look forward to,” Umaga said.
“We want to keep building throughout pre-season, make sure they get their confidence up early.”
Toulon, the closest thing world rugby has to Real Madrid’s Galacticos, loom as the tournament’s biggest drawcard.
Owned by maverick French comic book magnate Mourad Boudjellad, Toulon have made huge waves by signing the likes of Matt Giteau, Ma’a Nonu and Leigh Halfpenny.
Although the tournament is in the middle of the Top 14 season, Giteau said he was looking forward to getting involved.
“A lot of the guys, whether they’re French or Georgian or whatever, are always asking about what Australia’s like,” Giteau said.
Samoa coach Alama Ieremia was honoured to take part in the competition as the only national side involved.
“This is one of the highlights, to be invited to a professional tournament that has Super Rugby teams,” Ieremia said.
“It’s an opportunity for us to showcase what we have on the island.”
BRISBANE GLOBAL TENS AT A GLANCE
* Suncorp Stadium, 11-12 February 2017
* 14 teams – Reds, Waratahs, Brumbies, Force, Rebels, Highlanders, Hurricanes, Chiefs, Blues, Crusaders, Blue Bulls, Panasonic Wild Knights, Samoa, Toulon
* 10 players per side, unlimited interchanges
* 10-minute halves, five-minute half-time
* All conversion attempts must be drop-kicked within 40 seconds of try
* Five-man scrums
* Scoring team kicks off
* Yellow card = three-minute sin-bin