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Hybrid Rugby Trialled In Australia

A part-Union, part-League format is being tested

Posted May 18, 2011 by Chris White

Officials claim that support could get so big that fans would fill the ANZ Stadium

That age-old argument over which format is better – rugby union or rugby league – is one of the best debates in sport, with so many people having different opinions. In Australia, they may have found a way of ending the argument.

A ‘hybrid’ format, combining both union and league, has been trialled in a number of schoolboy matches, and even some professional sides are giving it a test. Over 4,000 interested spectators turned up this week to watch schoolboy sides from St Augustine’s College in Brookvale and Keebra Park State High School on the Gold Coast.

The teams consist of 13 players on each team, and the rules are dictated by whichever half you’re in. If the team in possession of the ball is in their own half of the field, the game is played according to league rules, but as soon as they cross into the opposition half, the rules switch to union laws. The hybrid also involves interesting innovations such as a basket-ball-style shot clock, where teams have 60 seconds to do something with the ball or turn it over. This helps to avoid the many periods where nothing happens, that can cause the quality of rugby union matches to deteriorate.

There are competitive scrums involving six players from each side, with no flankers. At this point, all the rules switch to rugby union.
Teams have to 'play the ball' like rugby league when attacking from their own half, and as soon as the team in possession crosses the halfway mark, they play rugby union - including rucks and mauls. There are two referees - one league, one union, and tries are worth four points. Conversions and penalty goals are worth two points, with drop goals worth one.

The hybrid version of the two formats is not aimed at replacing one, or both, but becoming an alternative. For the record, St Augustine’s College came out on top in this match, 16-12.

But is the hybrid version going to catch on? So far, it’s only been trialled in the southern hemisphere and they seem keen on it, but what about over here? We don’t see the same number of players making the move from one code to the other, and when we do, with the odd exceptions like Jason Robinson and Chris Ashton, they struggle to adapt or reach the very top level, unlike in Australia and New Zealand.

With some significant testing, I think it is something that could certainly work, and it would definitely break up that ‘league is for northerners, union is for southerners’ theory.

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