Western Force will tackle Hong Kong, Malaysia, Fiji, Samoa and another team based in Asia for the first-ever Global Rapid Rugby championship next year.
The format for the 2020 competition features six teams, 10 rounds, 31 games including a one-off final, and a $1 million prize pool.
Dates and times are still being finalised, but Western Force will open their campaign at home on the weekend of March 13-15, with the final round, also at home, on May 22-24. Perth will host five home games at the famed ‘Force Field’ at HBF Park.
The top two teams on the Global Rapid Rugby Season 1 points table at the end of 10 home-and-away rounds will go head-to-head in a Grand Final on the weekend of June 5-6.
Global Rapid Rugby CEO Mark Evans said negotiations are being finalised with another Asian side to complete the first season team list.
“The evolution from a handful of exhibition matches in 2018 to a 31 game 2020 home-and-away season will really put Rapid Rugby on the sporting map,” Evans said.
“As the inspiration for Andrew Forrest’s Asia Pacific vision, Western Force and its loyal fan base is a critical player. We want all fans of elite sport to get behind their teams and ensure loud and proud crowds provide a real home ground advantage.
“A lot of work has been done to reach this stage and we can’t wait for the competition to kick off in March."
After beginning in Perth against Malaysia Valke, the Force will embark on a Pacific Island road trip in rounds 2 and 3 before a competition wide bye, and then return to HBF Park in the second week of April against the South China Tigers.
The team then has rolling away and home matches and, if it qualifies, would enjoy a week off leading into the Grand Final to be staged in Perth.
Coach Tim Sampson is thrilled by the quality of the opposition and the challenge that awaits.
“We have been working towards this for a couple of years now. The chance to test ourselves week-in-week-out and playing internationally against quality opposition is extremely appetising,” Sampson said.
“Looking at the draw there will be some challenging periods, but there is no hiding from the fact we want to emulate this year and play footy that we enjoy playing, and also that our wonderful supporters enjoy watching.”
Of the other four sides in Season 1, South China Tigers, Fijian Latui and Malaysia Valke were part of this year’s Rapid Rugby Showcase Series and are again supported by their local governing bodies.
Samoa also played this year, however, the 2020 team carries a different name and the backing of the Samoa Rugby Union.
Force fans and everyone wanting to support Australia’s team in the inaugural Global Rapid Rugby competition can now purchase membership packages and reserved seats via westernforce.com.au.