A Solicitors' Practice for Sport
The historic divide between rugby union and rugby league has been well documented, but exciting plans to pit the best talent in both codes against each other were this week unveiled in Leeds at the offices of FrontRow Legal.
Bob Dwyer, the revered former Australia coach who guided the Wallabies to World Cup glory in 1991, has devised the ‘Hybrid Code’, which aims to bring the best out of union and league.
The 13-a-side game sees a union side face a league team, with ‘play the ball’ rules in the defensive half of the pitch and ‘ruck and maul’ rules in the attacking half.
On average, it takes around 60 seconds for a set of six tackles in rugby league to be completed. But, instead of six-tackle sets and unlimited phases, a set time in possession – akin to a basketball shot clock – is used where the attacking side has 60 seconds with the ball.
Teams in possession are required to score or kick during this time otherwise they lose the ball, while the ruck and maul will also be subject to the shot clock.
The concept has been in development in Australia for the past three years and in May the first-ever Hybrid Code match was played at Brookvale Oval on Sydney’s northern beaches.
The landmark match saw elite schoolboy sides from St Augustine’s College Brookvale and Keebra Park State High from the Gold Coast face off in a match watched by over 8,000.
The response to the match was met with an overwhelming response, encouraging hopes of a showpiece game between the leading clubs in both codes Down Under.
The trio spoke of their ambitious plans at a press conference on Wednesday at the Round Foundry Media Centre, home to leading sports lawyers FrontRow Legal who are assisting in negotiations with the project and have registered Hybrid Code Ltd in the UK.
Dwyer has no desire to unite the codes, rather he believes that a series of one-off games would produce a stunning spectacle for rugby fans everywhere and give the players involved a bumper pay-day.
The Hybrid Code team, which also includes ex-Kangaroos coach Bob Fulton and former Wallabies star Mark Ella, have already received backing from several current leading players such as Billy Slater.
They are now talking to broadcasters about a money-spinning televised encounter Down Under next year. Dwyer, who coached England Team Manager Martin Johnson at Leicester Tigers, says focus will then turn to staging a game in the northern hemisphere, raising the prospect of a potential clash between leading Super League and Aviva Premiership clubs.
Dwyer said: “This is definitely a shot in the arm for both codes. “They are two sports that are very strong and very close to one another and this is a chance to play on a level playing field.
“It’s not only the money – the money is the sealer I’m sure – but it is them saying ‘I want to see how good they are.’
“Everyone we speak to starts off ‘Hmm, interesting.’ In the space of the one conversation, they say ‘this has got real legs, this game.’
“Guys such as Billy Slater have made it clear they want to be a part of this.” Saracens this week announced a partnership with Wigan Warriors following Joel Tomkins’ cross-code switch to join the Premiership champions.
The clubs are set to play each other as part of the agreement and Dwyer added: “I’ve already spoken to Edwards Griffiths, the Saracens chief executive, about how we can work together.”
Franks has no doubts about what would constitute the dream showdown on British shores.
“England Rugby League versus England Rugby Union would be a once-in-a-century event,” he said.
“The codes are both football codes, they are not enemies. They’re not out there shooting each other.
“Every coach and player is looking for greatness. This will bring out that greatness. You will see the skills come out in the players.
“This game will fill stadiums in Europe or Australia. I am willing to punt that a game between rugby league and rugby union will fill any stadium.”
For more information, visit the Hybrid Code website www.thehybridcode.com
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