England's Saracens to play in HK
English Premiership giants Saracens will bring their burgeoning brand of rugby to Hong Kong in June to play the Asia Pacific Barbarians (APBs) for the Chartis Cup.
A star-studded Saracens line-up, including most of their England backline players, will take on a Barbarians team boasting the World Cup winner Mils Muliaina of New Zealand, Fijian Sireli Bobo and Samoan brothers Alesana and Henry Tuilagi at Hong Kong Stadium on June 9.
This season Saracens were due to play a Heineken Cup encounter against Biarritz in Cape Town - the match was called off due to issues with the Western Province Union in South Africa, though they still travelled there - and have also been to Abu Dhabi. Now it's Hong Kong.
'We want to create a global brand and we see Hong Kong as a big part of our campaign,' said the Saracens and England scrum half Richard Wigglesworth (pictured).
Wigglesworth was in Hong Kong yesterday but would rather have been with his England teammates preparing for today's Six Nations encounter against Italy in Rome. But injury, which he suffered after playing in the World Cup in October, has kept him sidelined.
'Yes, it would be great to be playing with the rest of the Sarries [Saracens] in the England backline,' Wigglesworth said. 'I'm quite jealous. But hopefully I will be fit again soon. I had an op on my ACL [anterior cruciate ligament in the knee] 3 1/2 months ago and I hope to be back in about eight weeks' time.'
He should be ready to play in Hong Kong and will join a squad containing England backline stars Charlie Hodgson (fly half), Owen Farrell (inside centre), Brad Barritt (outside centre) and David Strettle (winger). Strettle is no stranger to Hong Kong, having appeared for England at the Hong Kong Sevens. Saracens, the reigning English champions and only remaining English side in the Heineken Cup, have pledged to bring their strongest line-up.
Saracens will also boast a number of other top internationals, including South Africa's 2007 World Cup-winning captain and hooker John Smit, scrum half Neil de Kock (South Africa), props Rhys Gill (Wales) and Carlo Nieto (Italy), hooker Schalk Brits (South Africa), lock Hayden Smith (United States), back-rower Kelly Brown (Scotland) and backs Chris Wyles (US), Michael Tagicakibau and Kameli Ratuvou (both Fiji).
'I hope it will be like the Hong Kong Sevens,' said Tongan flanker Hale T-Pole, who will star for the APBs. Organisers hope so, too, and have priced tickets at HK$300.
Proceeds from the game will be donated to schools in Thailand affected by last year's floods.
'We are hopeful of attracting 10,000 people for the game,' said Les Mouat, Chartis Insurance Asia-Pacific chairman. 'It will be a day for the family. We will have mini-rugby games before we watch these two fantastic teams in action. But we shouldn't also lose sight of the charitable element of the match. Our aim is to raise US$100,000 for those affected by the floods.
'We wanted the best. Last year in June, the [APBs] played against a World XV at the Hong Kong Football Club. Now we are taking it one step further and have got down Saracens, who are right now the leading English team in Europe.'
Jon Phelps, match organiser and APB chairman, said: 'Given that they are the English Premiership champions, we will obviously be working hard to put together an [APB] line-up that can meet the challenge.'
A couple of Hong Kong players are also likely to get the chance to rub shoulders with Muliaina and play against England's best.