Global Rapid Rugby (GRR) has cancelled its 2020-21 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with looming uncertainty over competing teams and its chief executive also stepping down over travel restrictions. The faster, more fan-friendly approach to 15s rugby – funded by Australian business mogul Andrew Forrest – got off to a rough start having suspended its inaugural season in March before cancelling it entirely in April . Hong Kong-based South China Tigers played one game in the six-team home-and-away tournament before the decision. The Hong Kong Rugby Union had helped in organising GRR’s tournaments throughout its encouraging-turned-inauspicious introduction to the world. HKRU chief executive Robbie McRobbie said organisers were prepared for the worst amid government-imposed safety protocols. “We’ve obviously been in a standby situation for a while now,” McRobbie said. “There’s been a lot of uncertainty over the shape of rugby next year and we got to a position whereby we needed to get some clarity. We’ve been in ongoing contact with the [GRR] team and over the weekend they came to the conclusion that putting on a competition in 2021 was just not going to be viable, unfortunately. “It’s disappointing from our point of view because we really believed that Andrew had come up with a really good product in terms of the law variations, the shape of the game, the exciting initiatives, and the high-level teams involved.” However, the status of some of these teams’ futures is as uncertain as the tournament itself. Team Malaysia Valke, a joint venture between Malaysian and South African outfits, has since declared bankruptcy, while China Lions (China), Fijian Latui (Fiji), Manuma Samoa (Samoa), South China Tigers (Hong Kong) and Forrest’s own Western Force (Australia) may apply for spots in New Zealand’s Super Rugby league. Remembering the good times… Who joined us last year when the Tigers ran out in front of the home crowd to take on the Asia Pacific Dragons? #southchinatigers #rapidrugby #alwaysentertaining pic.twitter.com/Kf8Nd9eJhY — South China Tigers (@SCTRugby) May 24, 2020 “Everything’s up in the air. The good news is Andrew is not going away; he’s invested A$5 million (HK$27.7 million) in the community game in Western Australia and reconfirmed his commitment to Western Force. He’s here to stay in rugby and that’s a good thing,” McRobbie said. “Unfortunately, the Valke went into receivership, not because of GRR but obviously the South African game has got problems [of its own]. I don’t think we’ll see them back in Asia. The hot topic is how are the Pacific Island countries going to be potentially involved in Super Rugby going forward. The future looks quite encouraging and there will be a place for them somewhere, whether it’s New Zealand or Australia. “China Lions we remain in close contact with. They have ambitions and it’s no secret they are hoping to be one of the expansion teams in the Super Rugby competition in 2022. That leaves ourselves, and in the short term the priority switches from the South China Tigers brand back to the Hong Kong national team,” added McRobbie, highlighting the men’s 15s 2023 World Cup campaign starting at the Asia Rugby Championship next summer. “The tiger is not dead, I can assure you of that. It may be hibernating next year; we’ll be watching the Hong Kong national team’s dragon as opposed to the tiger.” While GRR is still open to a return post-2021 season, it will need to search for a new CEO after Mark Evans stepped down this month. The experienced Evans also stepped down as CEO of Western Force. “It’s been a really difficult situation with Mark because he wasn’t able to get back into Australia,” McRobbie explained. “He has been sat in England since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown and travel restrictions. Mark has a long and illustrious pedigree in the sport and he’s done a great job at the helm of GRR, but clearly trying to run an organisation from the other side of the world – even with the wonders of Zoom – must have been tough for him.” Regardless of GRR’s fate in the future – it does not rule out a return in 2022 – McRobbie insisted it has already left a significant mark in world rugby. “It’s certainly not been without its challenges, but setting up a new international club competition from scratch was an enormous challenge and all credit to Andrew for putting his money where his mouth was to invest in the product,” he said. “When you look at what he has done, you can’t classify it as a failure because first of all he’s kept Western Force alive, which that alone should be lauded. Secondly, the initiatives that GRR introduced, like some of the kicking rules, have actually been trialled in other competitions. “Andrew put law variations and match day experience changes into the conversation and agenda. Not hypothetical; he demonstrated what rugby could look like with those changes … on and off the pitch. That won’t be undone, whether or not there’s another GRR competition. It will have its place in the history of rugby,” McRobbie said.