Aliens lead New Zealand assault
The all-conquering Aliens will be back to defend their trophy when the GFI Hong Kong Tens 2006 is staged next month.
Aliens, the mostly Kiwi team who have appeared in nine of the past 13 finals, are top seeds for the March 29-30 showpiece at the Hong Kong Football Club.
'We're greatly looking forward to returning to defend our title,' said Aliens manager Eddie Evans. 'The competition will be intense, but we're confident of rising to the challenge in true Aliens style with a strong squad that will feature several of the players from last year.
'There are some excellent teams and we anticipate some tough games.'
The tournament, which this year welcomes global cash and derivatives broker GFI as title sponsor - was established in 1986 and has evolved into the world's premier tens festival.
Organisers have refined the format this year to make the tournament more competitive and give players more game time. It also means there will be four trophies up for grabs - Cup, Plate, Bowl and Shield - instead of the previous three.
For the opening day, the 16 teams will be divided into four pools of four with one team in each pool being seeded.
Kiwi teams occupy the top three seedings. Aliens have top billing, with New Zealand Metro - Cup winners in 2003 - seeded two and New Zealand Legends seeded three. Fourth seeds will be PricewaterhouseCoopers International Panthers, a mainly Australian outfit who made an impressive debut in last year's Tens and who expect to return with a strong line-up.
If seedings go according to plan, Aliens will play the Panthers and Metro will square off against the Legends in two mouthwatering semi-finals.
Three Hong Kong First Division sides will be represented - hosts CBRE Club, Alvarez & Marsal DeA Tigers, and Laxton PLA.
Local hopes will also rest with Hill and Associates Hong Kong Barbarians - made up mainly of professional players from the Hong Kong First Division - and the Asian Cavaliers, an invitation team being put together by HKFC member James Cook.
Explaining the new format, organising committee chairman Colin James said: 'We've had 20 or even 24 teams in the past, but then some of the teams were only getting to play three matches.
'This year, all teams are guaranteed at least five games in the tournament.'
Pool A: Aliens, Irish Vikings, DeA Tigers, Acorns.
Pool B: NZ Metro, Tamariva, China Agricultural University, Asian Cavaliers.
Pool C: NZ Legends, Cardiff University, Overseas Old Boys, CBRE Club.
Pool D: International Panthers, HK Barbarians, Black Watch, PLA.