Panthers bring in the big hitters for Tens
World Cup winners Joe Roff, Matt Cockbain and Toutai Kefu will lead a powerful Australian challenge at next week's GFI Hong Kong Tens.
Winger Roff, flanker Cockbain and No8 Kefu - all members of Australia's successful team in 1999 - are among five ex-Wallabies who will turn out for the PricewaterhouseCoopers International Panthers at Hong Kong Football Club on March 29-30.
The Panthers will be out to end New Zealand's recent domination of the Tens - Kiwi teams have won the past five editions. Ex-Australian internationals Peter Jorgensen and Richard Tombs are also in the squad together with former Australian sevens captain David Kelaher, some Japan-based players and several young Sydney first graders.
The Panthers, who made their debut at last year's Tens when they reached the Cup quarter-finals, have once again been brought together by Football Club player Charlie Brazier.
'With our Wallabies, guys playing in Japan and some youngsters from Sydney, we have a great mix of youth and experience thanks to the support of PricewaterhouseCoopers,' said Brazier.
'The plan is to improve on last year's performance but, whatever happens, we have a great team of tourists who will thoroughly enjoy the tournament.'
The Panthers are seeded fourth behind three Kiwi teams - defending champions and top seeds Aliens, second seeds New Zealand Metro and New Zealand Legends.
Metro will include former All Blacks centre Scott McLeod capped 10 times - and several ex-Super 12 players, including Samiu Vahafalou, Ben Hurst and Colin Bourke. Aliens, Cup winners the past two years, are finalising their squad.
The Irish Vikings are returning with their strongest line-up yet, led by former Ireland stars Tyrone Howe - who toured with the 2001 British and Irish Lions - and Jonathan Bell plus experienced Tongan international Kati Tui'pulotu.
'We've got some extremely high calibre players and some outstanding teams coming to the Tens,' said organising committee chairman Colin James. 'The Tens has become one of the highlights of the Asian rugby calendar and we're looking forward to two days of terrific action.'
Sixteen teams will compete in the Tens, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary. Play begins at 11am on Wednesday with pool matches, while Thursday will see the knockout competitions get underway.
HONG KONG TENS POOLS
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.