What rugby really needed was a 12 player format

Joining the illustrious 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 15 man formats of the game, 12 a side might finally be what's missing.

Welcome to the latest edition of SSWOS, the Sick, Sad World of Sports, where sports is the mechanism by which we learn about the depths of shithousery and assholery and dipshittery of the human soul.

I hope you find it fun or informative but not both. If you want more of this particular species of brain worms, follow me @scksadwos.

I also write exclusively about rugby league on pythagonrl.com and @pythagonrl.

What rugby really needed was a 12 player format

It’s another week, which means we are due another format of rugby that no one asked for. Following in the extremely successful footsteps of Rugby 10s, Rapid Rugby, Rugby X and Rugby League, we have Rugby 12s.

There are numerous options for a version of rugby union that doesn’t suck. One is rugby 7s and it’s good enough that its included in the Olympics. The other is rugby league, which is what rugby union would be if it got rid of the technicalities with a view to making it in the slightest bit interesting to watch. What does rugby 12s really offer other than not requiring rugby union to acknowledge that, actually, the Northern Union was right all along?

Sports administrators are absolutely obsessed with the success of Twenty20 cricket. When I say “success”, I mean the Indian Premier League because as far as I can tell, there aren’t many other leagues actually making any money. Most of the startup T20 leagues were predicated on the idea that they could sell the rights to India, which supposedly has an unlimited appetite for cricket. It turns out there are very much limits to that appetite in reality.

Ignoring all of this, sports adminstrators, especially rugby administrators, are looking for a shortcut to more money. If they just make the game shorter and faster, that’s the ticket out of the mess they’re in. After all, it’s well known young people don’t have the attention span, even as Facebook-cooked boomers accelerate the seeming never ending series of disasters that we have had to endure over the last decade or two.

This is patently stupid. The average rugby game - pick a code, it doesn’t matter - runs for less time than a T20 game. T20 was brought in so that cricket had a format that was closer to a typical team sport, where the game finishes in two to three hours, instead of one to five days. That doesn’t mean that if you shorten rugby to sixty minutes with fewer players on the field, that you’re going to tap into the magic of the IPL or The Hundred.

It baffles me that people with a lot of money can’t see this and yet here we are. I’m sure they’ll pile money in, Rugby 12s will float around for a few years, some of their mates will have fancy titles and fly business class before being wound up when it turns out they can’t bilk hosting fees out of local bureaucrats who are a lot less incredulous about the magic of a bullshit rugby format.

The grace, the beauty of sports


Thanks for reading.