Western Force prop Kieran Longbottom is adamant World Series Rugby will be a long-term success, and he’s thrilled he can play a part in launching it.
A sellout crowd of 19,466 fans attended the Force’s highly anticipated return last week, with the Perth-based franchise beating the Fiji Warriors 24-14.
Another six exhibition games will be played this year, before billionaire mining magnate Andrew Forrest hopes to launch a six or eight-club competition in 2019, taking in teams from the Indo Pacific region.
The Force’s future looked glum when they were axed at the end of last season from Super Rugby.
But Forrest has poured millions of dollars into relaunching the Force.
Doubts still remain over the feasibility of his planned competition for next year.
But Longbottom, having played 57 games for the Force from 2008-14, is confident it will be a success.
“Definitely,” Longbottom said. “You see the excitement that’s happening. I heard all the plans for next year. It’s going to work and it’s going to be awesome.
“It’s going to be incredible for world rugby.
“It will bring rugby to a wider audience, to a bigger part of the world, and a part of the world that doesn’t have high-level rugby.”
The Force will be back in action on Sunday when they take on a Tonga representative side at nib Stadium.
Last week’s World Series Rugby opener featured live music, fireworks, dancers, light shows, parachute stunts and giveaways.
It remains to be seen what entertainment Forrest has up his sleeve for game two.
The Western Force Women will take on Hong Kong in a curtain raiser.
Longbottom made history when he debuted in 2008 for the Force – becoming the first player from WA to progress through the state’s junior ranks and make it all the way to the top.
The 32-year-old, after spending the past few years in Europe, but jumped at the chance to return to help the Force’s relaunch.
“I wanted to be part of the reboot for rugby in WA,” Longbottom said.
“It’s my home and I want it to succeed. If I can help out in any way and be part of it, that’s awesome.”