What is RugbyX? The five-a-side tournament is coming to London’s O2
Philip Mak - August 19, 2019

What is RugbyX? The five-a-side tournament is coming to London’s O2

Get into the scrum of the new format, who’s playing and more
RugbyX UK 2019

RugbyX is a new international five-a-side rugby union tournament coming to the O2 Arena in London on 29 October 2019.

According to MyLondon, the competition’s technical director and Olympic Gold medal-winning coach Ben Ryan says the event will introduce an, “exciting format of the game for current and new rugby fans” that will increase the sport’s speed — leading to a hybrid that is part Six Nations, part NBA game. 

He continues,"World Rugby has given us the green light for this test event. If things go well we would hope they would agree to expand the series.”


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Ryan and London-based athletics marketing firm TRM conceived of RugbyX’s rules. World Rugby, the sport’s governing body, is hoping the new format will revolutionise its finances and appeal in the same way Twenty20 has done for cricket, reports The Times. The organisation also released a study revealing that its global fanbase had increased by 24% between 2013 and 2018 to 793 million, of which 36% are women or girls. 

It seems like this could be World Rugby’s power play. Not only will the five-a-side format mean fewer players, but RugbyX games will take place on a smaller, indoor, artificial-grass pitch over the course of 10 minutes — essentially guaranteeing games will be faster, more intense and non-stop action. For players, ideally these additional matches will complement their rugby sevens commitments as opposed to compete with them.

The one-day tournament marks the first time international rugby has come to the London O2 Arena. It will see men’s and women’s teams from England, France, Ireland, the USA and Argentina (lads only) competing in the first-ever RugbyX event. Matches will be split between an afternoon session and an evening session. 

Ready to tackle all the RugbyX details? Keep reading for everything you need to know before you go to the O2, and click the link below for tickets from StubHub. 

Be there: RugbyX

Fast facts

  • Dates: 29 October
  • Location: London
  • Venue: O2 Arena
  • Number of nations competing: Five 
  • Attendance: 12,000 (estimated)

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Who is playing in RugbyX?

The confirmed teams for RugbyX international tournament include: England Rugby, Irish Rugby, USA Rugby, France Rugby, Argentina Rugby and the Barbarians FC, with the latter two not including women. 

RugbyPass quotes Barbarians chairman John Spencer as saying: “Since our foundation in 1890, the Barbarians have been committed to combining the best of attacking rugby with the traditions of enjoyment and sportsmanship for which our club and our sport is famous throughout the world.”

He continues, “We are delighted to bring those traditions to this most innovative format of rugby at the O2 arena in London. We look forward to facing the world’s leading international sevens teams in this new fast-paced, five versus five format of the game we love.” 


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Notably absent are New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Fiji, though this is only the inaugural event after all. World Rugby has planned five more tournaments around the globe in 2020. The players will mostly come from rugby sevens teams — and the events will greatly increase their salaries.

Ryan is quoted by RugbyPass as saying, “Everything is aligned to the season plan, so it doesn’t clash with other rugby events, especially the World Sevens Series.” 

He continues, “We’re not looking to compete with sevens, we see it as an entry level event that will add to the sport.”

What is the RugbyX match format? 

The rules of RugbyX matches differ from those of regular rugby union games, and have the potential to reinvent or revolutionise the sport according to The Week. The play World Rugby is making is to increase speed and intensity in order to grow popularity, particularly amongst new and younger fans, while doing their best to minimise injuries during the full-contact matches.   

“We see events such as Rugby X, which is so innovative and from outside the traditional rugby union family, as creating new gateways for the sport,” says World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper, as quoted by i news.

The RugbyX rules:

  • Matches are 10 minutes in length 
  • Played indoors on half-sized (32m x 55m), artificial grass pitches 
  • Five players per team 
  • Teams can use rolling substitutes  
  • There’s no half-time 
  • Uncontested three-man scrums 
  • Full contact
  • No line-outs
  • No conversions 
  • Restarts are with a quick throw when the ball goes in touch (tap and go)

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What is the RugbyX schedule?

The one-day international tournament will take place over an afternoon and evening session at Europe’s No. 1 entertainment venue, London’s O2 Arena, on 26 October. The event is right in the middle of the semi-finals and finals of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan

According to RugbyX website, the afternoon session will see the six men’s teams split into two pools of three — with each nation playing two matches to determine first, second and third rankings per grouping. 

The session will feature a total of six men’s and two women’s matches; the four women’s nations will play off in semi-finals. In the evening, the lads’ pool winners will do a forward pass straight to the semi-finals. 

They will face the winners of the men’s quarter-finals, which will be contested by the second- and third-place teams in each pool from the afternoon session. At the end of the evening session, the women’s and men’s semi-final winners will each play off in their respective RugbyX Grand Finals matches.