Penguin Richard Hooper hoping to follow brother into Wallabies
Having watched his younger brother charge past him into the Wallabies team, Richard Hooper is among a host of players with big ambitions at this year's GFI HKFC Tens.
The tournament, which takes place today and tomorrow at Hong Kong Football Club, has long been known as a great place to see stars of the past - this year is no exception, with Tana Umaga's BGC APB All Stars featuring three former All Blacks among the big names - but plenty of others are confident the best is still to come.
Manly winger Hooper is one: after brother Michael made his Australia debut last year, excelling in the Rugby Championship, Richard would love to team up with him again.
"He's been playing outstanding," says 22-year-old Hooper who lines out for the HSBC Penguins. "From what I hear it's all great things [in the Australia setup]. It sounds like a pretty good life, and he's already got a lot of good stories about it.
"I was happy with my season last year and there was a bit of interest [from Super Rugby] ... if I can back that up hopefully some doors might open."
Penguins are seeded second behind last year's winners APBs in the 16-team tournament. Third are ULR Samurai International, an all-Fijian squad featuring many current and former sevens internationals, and fourth are Cobra, mostly Malaysia internationals and resident Fijians. But all have a wary eye on seventh seeds Tradition YCAC, packed with up-and-coming New Zealand talent.
One, Jack Wilson, ticked off one of his career ambitions last year when he was plucked from the tens tournament after day one to make his debut for New Zealand's sevens side, going all the way to the final at So Kon Po.
"What a great place to make my sevens debut," said the Saracens winger. "The crowd there is amazing, I've seen it from both sides having watched from the South Stand with a pint or two when we won the 10s with Tradition in 2011, then playing in it last year. Hong Kong's been a good hunting ground I suppose and hopefully I can sign off with another win."
Kane Hancy captains the team, looking for his fourth title in four appearances. Older, at 30, than many of his squad, he still has a dream of his own: having started playing in Portugal, gaining residency could be a ticket to the Olympics with their rugby sevens team. "I'm still feeling fit and it would be a nice way to round off my career," says Hancy, who has never lost at the event.
Elsewhere, the fledgling Rwanda international side trained by ex-Scotland coach Frank Hadden have already achieved their goal after featuring at the Kowloon RugbyFest in 2011 and 2012.
"Last year they decided they wanted a crack at the main event, which to be honest is a very tough challenge for them," said Hadden. "I've great admiration for their ambition for wanting to take on professional players and some of the iconic figures in the game.
"It'll be a fantastic learning experience for them ... how could I say no?"