'Baa-baas' to play World XV in HK
The newly created Asia Pacific Barbarians will play a star-studded World XV in Hong Kong next month with the organiser hoping to raise HK$1 million for earthquake and tsunami relief in Japan.
England fullback/winger Josh Lewsey, French stars Serge Betsen and Mathieu Bastareaud and Wales' Sonny Parker will turn out for the World XV in the Chartis Cup at the Hong Kong Football Club on June 11.
The Asia Pacific Barbarians made their debut in Hong Kong in March at the GFI HKFC Tens, wowing fans as they finished runners-up to Tradition Valley. They had Australian legend George Gregan and New Zealand great Christian Cullen in their ranks that day but they will step aside for a group of younger professional players. 'We would never be able to get World Cup players as they are not available, but these guys are still playing at the absolute top level,' says organiser Jon Phelps, a Hong Kong sports promoter.
Phelps said the match would be a full-blooded encounter, adding: 'The idea of exhibition rugby is nonsense - it's full contact, no half measures.'
The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union has given its blessing to the game - demanding a match of quality and an entertainment product, which is something 'we are very conscious about', says Phelps.
HKRFU chairman Trevor Gregory said: 'This is a great opportunity for the rugby community to show its support for our friends in Japan.'
The HKFC overflowed during the Japan-Hong Kong clash in the Asian Five Nations Top Five showdown last month and Phelps is confident of filling the 2,500-seat stadium and raising HK$1 million through admission and community events leading up to the game. 'The sponsor will cover all player expenses,' said Phelps, adding that his company, Carinat, would not get a cent.
The Asian Pacific Barbarians boast New Zealand great Sean Fitzpatrick as their president and will again be coached by Aussie great David Campese.
In their ranks will be controversial Australian Willie Mason, who switched codes and joined big-spending French club Toulon this month; New Zealanders Sione Lauaki and Mose Tuilaii; Japanese idol Takuro Miuchi, who captained Japan to the 2003 and 2007 World Cups; and three flying Fijians - Rupeni Caucaunibuca and Vilimoni Delasau and former Sevens star Sireli Bobo.
'I am deeply honoured to be a part of this unique match as a player,' Miuchi said. 'I know this show of support by the rugby community across the world, and particularly in Hong Kong, will bring some happiness to hearts of people in Japan.'
Two Hong Kong players will also be invited to turn out for the Asia Pacific Barbarians.
The World XV has already signed on Lewsey (55 caps and three tests for the Lions), Betsen and powerhouse centre Bastareaud, who gained notoriety for his fabricated assault claim on a tour to New Zealand in 2009, fellow Frenchmen Benoit Baby and Lionel Faure, Parker, England's Lesley Vainikolo, and South Africans Brent Russell and Deon Carstens.
Phelps said the AP Barbarians has a mission to develop rugby in Asia in the next decade. 'We need to embrace fans by providing them with experiences that will invoke a special connection that lasts for a long time, and hopefully the Asia Pacific Barbarians will provide that,' he said.