Steve Hansen believes money and camaraderie will make the World 12s concept compelling for the world’s leading rugby players and that fans will love the fast-paced format.
The former All Blacks coach is an ambassador for the 12-a-side competition – seen as rugby’s equivalent to cricket’s Indian Premier League – that is planned to launch in England next year and be played over three consecutive weekends.
Plans were unveiled on Wednesday with World 12s targeting 192 players for eight franchises. They will play an abbreviated format of the game in teams involving six forwards and six backs contesting 30-minute matches with new rules targeted to improve rugby’s problem areas like scrum resets.
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“I really think the players will want to be part of this, and they will find a way to push their clubs and unions to look at the calendar,” former All Blacks coach Hansen told the BBC in Britain, immediately addressing concerns about a new event on a crowded international rugby scene.
“Why do I think this is different? Because the players are going to have a vested interest, they will want to play in it for a number of reasons.
“One, financially, that’s the obvious one. Two, I think the concept of being able to spend three weeks with some of the best players in the world, rub shoulders on the training field, that is too good to turn down.
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“You look at the IPL, people want to be there for the money, but they want to be there because of who they are playing with.”
A women’s World 12s competition, with equal prizemoney, is planned for 2023 as the organisation looks to generate almost NZ$500m over the next five years.
In a separate interview with Rugby Pass, Hansen felt the format would find favour with fans.
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“The game [XV rugby] has been around for a long, long time – we’re pretty used to it and have probably got a little complacent,” Hansen said.
“World 12s gives us an opportunity to get really excited and move people’s backsides from the back of the seat to the front of it. It’s an exciting concept, to play a game of rugby that is going to be fast, that is about skill. It will encourage big men, little men right across the park. Fans will enjoy that.
“It’s a really big opportunity to look at something on the laws to make them simpler, easier to understand and work with the rest of the world on that so we can be showcasing those without introducing a whole load of gimmicks – we still want the concept of the (15s) game.
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“And it’s an opportunity for players to be able to rub shoulders with guys that they don’t necessarily rub shoulders with.
“When they select it will be players from all over the world and it’s a three-week competition.
“Player welfare has been something we have already talked a lot about to make sure we are not taxing players. It’s a proposal that is really going to change the face of rugby and enhance it as opposed to detracting from it. I’m really excited.”
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World 12s will largely follow the laws of 15s, but with these adaptations:
• 12 players in a team – six forwards and six backs
• 15-minute halves
• Conversions will be drop goals only
• Only one scrum reset, followed by a free kick
• Scrum infringements are penalised by a differential penalty (a penalty that cannot be kicked at goal)