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Published: 12:26 | 8/4/16

O'Driscoll wants 'Big Bash' of rugby

Former Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll says rugby should use Cricket Australia's "Big Bash" as a template to grow the sport.

O'Driscoll is an ambassador for the Hong Kong Sevens, and the four-time British and Irish Lion says the short form of the game should act a shop window to new and emerging rugby nations.

Cricket Australia introduced the eight-team Twenty20 'Big Bash' in 2011, and has seen attendances and revenues increase year-on-year by attracting a new, family audience to the matches.

The average attendance in the 2016 BBL climbed to 28,346,a 22% increase on last season, with more than 1 million people watching each game on television.

World Rugby is making a concerted effort to spread the game beyond its' traditional heartlands of the United Kingdom, France, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, most notably by awarding the 2019 Rugby World Cup to Japan.

25m people, a fifth of Japan’s entire population, watched the Brave Blossoms' match against Samoa following their incredible 34-32 win South Africa in the opening weekend of the tournament, and O'Driscoll says the sport can grow even further in non-rugby countries by promoting the sevens game.

"Rugby sevens requires fewer players and fewer resources, so it opens the game up to whole new audiences," he wrote in the Huffington Post.

"The HSBC #futureofrugby report uses the example of The 'Big Bash' in Australia as how new formats can really energise a sport. I think it's absolutely possible that the same could happen to rugby.

"Align that to TV broadcasts that focus more and more on entertainment factor and a digital landscape that is creating new ways to enjoy the game on a daily basis, the way we consume rugby could greatly change in the next ten years."

Three-time Heineken Cup winner O'Driscoll has also backed Wales coach Warren Gatland to lead the 2017 Lions tour to New Zealand, ahead of Ireland coach Joe Schmidt.

Gatland, 52, controversially dropped O'Driscoll from the 2013 Lions' third Test against Australia, a match the Lions went on to win to secure the series.

"You have to think it’s between Gats [Warren Gatland] and Joe Schmidt and I think having been under Gats in 2013 – and he was a coach in 2009 as well – his style is probably something that lends itself to the short lead-in time.”

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