Hong Kong Rugby Union open to featuring in Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest’s ‘IPL of rugby’
As the Western Force’s battle with the Australian Rugby Union comes to an end, the billionaire announces plans for a six-team Indo-Pacific competition
The Hong Kong Rugby Union are open to taking part in mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest’s breakaway rugby competition, chief rugby operations officer Dai Rees said on Tuesday.
The Australian Rugby Union axed the Western Force from the Super Rugby competition after the New South Wales Supreme Court dismissed Rugby Western Australia’s appeal – and Forrest immediately announced plans to launch a six-team Indo-Pacific competition.
The competition, dubbed the “Indian Premier League of rugby” by Force coach Dave Wessels in reference to the big-money cricket league, will see the Force compete against franchises from other countries in the Indo-Pacific region.
While there is no confirmation as yet that Hong Kong will be involved, Rees says the union would “be silly not to listen” to what the billionaire businessman has to say.
“We’d be crazy not to look at it, it’s a seven-hour flight to Perth and it’s in the same time zone. When you look around the world at other opportunities, that’s not a long flight,” Rees said.
“The element that is killing Super Rugby is crossing the time zones between South Africa, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, that’s what’s killing the game from a playing perspective and a viewing perspective.”
While he is yet to receive any official contact, Rees believes it could be a good fit at a time when the union is continually looking for ways to improve the standard of the Hong Kong Premiership.
“It’s been well-documented over the years that we’ve been looking to add a team to the Japanese league and looking at opportunities to expand our base and bridge the gap between our domestic game and the international game as it moves into a more professional era,” Rees said.
“We have done that with the elite rugby programme and we’d be silly not to look at other options.”
More details about the competition are set to be released in the coming days, but Forrest said on Tuesday that “discussions have commenced across the world” and that he would like to launch the league with a game pitting the Force against an international team.
“There’s nothing been discussed with us at that level at this moment,” Rees said about the prospect of Hong Kong featuring in that match.
“We’re in preparation for the Cup of Nations [in November], so I’m not sure it’d be us. Would it be Japan, it could be, couldn’t it?
“We’d be crazy not to sit down and speak strategically about where we are going – but I do emphasise that’s just our general position.
“We have got to sort out our own backyard before we start talking about working outside, but in the same respect we have got to look at opportunities as they come along.”
Other potential participants in the competition could include a team from the Pacific Islands, while there have been early suggestions that the Asia-Pacific Dragons could take part.
A well-known invitational team, the Asia-Pacific Dragons are a fan favourite at the Hong Kong Tens, winning the event in 2012, ’14 and ’15.
On a dark day for Australia rugby, Forrest assured fans that “out of great disappointment comes equal or greater opportunity”.
“We will include strong and deeply powerful players, broadcasters and fans of rugby all across the Indo-Pacific region where some 60 per cent of the world’s people live,” he said.
“This is the beginning of the new Force, this is the beginning of the new Indo-Pacific competition and I am delighted to be an instigator of it.”