Organisers of the glitzy new Brisbane Global Tens are hopeful it will provide Super Rugby with the high-profile summer springboard the sport 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 dreamed up by the company behind the NRL’s successful Auckland Nines.
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 – and all will be contractually obligated to bring their biggest names.
Importantly, it gives rugby some handy promotional leverage at a time of year usually dominated by AFL and NRL pre-seasons.
“It really invigorates rugby. It makes a statement, it says ‘bang – rugby’s back this year, get involved’,” former Wallabies captain and Queensland Rugby Union board member Nathan Sharpe said.
The Brisbane Global Tens is locked in for the next four seasons, starting on February 11-12 next year.
It is the brainchild of New Zealand promoters Duco Events, who secured strong government funding and support in Queensland for the ambitious venture.
The tens format is being talked up as the perfect hybrid between the fast and furious rugby sevens, and the more pure elements of the full version of the code.
“The set pieces will be genuine contests and with only ten players on the field there is a lot more space to attack,” said former Wallabies boss and current Panasonic coach Robbie Deans, who will have Berrick Barnes among his touring party.
“You could argue that this will be the biggest gathering of world class rugby players in one city in the history of the game.”
With Super Rugby scheduled to begin a fortnight later, teams are expected to use the whole week as part of their pre-season preparations, with practice matches, opposed training sessions and fan days all on the cards.
“It’s perfect timing for all the Super Rugby sides,” said new Queensland Reds coach Nick Stiles.
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 in recent years.
“They’ll be flying out on their private jets, it’s not going to be too much of a worry for them. Good on them for making the commitment,” Reds star Karmichael Hunt said.
Although the tournament is in the middle of the Top 14 season, Giteau said he was looking forward to getting involved.
“Especially for Toulon, a lot of the guys – whether they’re French or Georgian, whatever – are always asking about what Australia’s like,” Giteau said.
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