All Blacks World Cup hero Dan Carter to play in Hong Kong with his new club Racing 92
HKRU coup as fly-half included in French club's squad for clash with Super Rugby's Highlanders
Former All Blacks superstar Dan Carter will play in Hong Kong on February 6 when his French club side Racing 92 tackle reigning Super Rugby champions Highlanders in the Natixis Cup.
The 33-year-old three-time world player of the year who retired from internationals after New Zealand won this year’s Rugby World Cup made headlines last month when he joined the French Top 14 side.
The fly-half is expected to debut for Racing against Northampton in the European Rugby Champions Cup (ERCC) on Saturday and will travel to Hong Kong for the Natixis Cup, a one-off invitational match designed to stimulate interest in the game in the city during the winter break.
Pieter Schats, Hong Kong Rugby Union chairman, said Hong Kong fans were in for a treat given the quality of the two sides.
“The Hong Kong Rugby Union needs to bring more games to Hong Kong,” said Schats, “We are famous for the Sevens but we have tried for many years to put on a second great event.“The [Pulse Energy] Highlanders are a very high-quality outfit. Young, aggressive, fit and highly skilled, they keep the ball alive and go through many phases on the field.
“The French team are in a league that is almost like the top-flight English soccer league, with stars from all corners of the world. They have remarkable players like Dan Carter and other stars in their line-up.”
Organisers had hoped to make the match a showdown between the southern hemisphere provincial champions and reigning European club champions RC Toulon. However, this fell through because of sanctioning problems and Racing, quarter-finalists in the 20-team ERCC were brought in.“[European officials] were very happy to sanction Racing to come here, very much because of our three-year association with the club and they have built a strong base here,” said Vern Reid, HKRU chief executive.
Racing 92 and Toulouse played each other in the same fixture in 2013, when the match was held at the 8,000-seat Aberdeen Sports Ground. The HKRU decided to move the event to the larger Siu Sai Wan Sports Ground, which seats 11,800.
“This is the first time for Siu Sai Wan to host an international match,” said Reid. “If we can get it for one or two [international matches] every year, that will be terrific.”Last week, team officials from the Highlanders came to Hong Kong to inspect the venue and said they were happy with the conditions.
“I would say it’s a hidden gem,” said Reid. “The grass quality is very good already. It’s only a matter of putting up the posts and fitting in with the local soccer league calendar.”
Tickets for the Natixis Cup can be purchased online through Ticketflap, with general admission seats priced at HK$399 and early-bird tickets available until January 8 for HK$299.