Top teams return for HKFC 10s with two new additions still to come for April’s Hong Kong Sevens appetiser
Early confirmation of invitational sides is a sign of how seriously teams take the tens, says tournament director
The three invitational sides will be among those looking to dethrone reigning champions UBB Gavekal who will again be coached by Matt Clarkin, former captain of Top 14 club Union Bordeaux Begles.
Penguins lost 10-7 to UBB Gavekal in last year’s final, having won the Cup in 2013 and 2016. Samurai are again looking to win for the first time after finishing runners-up in 2010, 2013 and 2016, while Tradition YCAC, a squad traditionally made up of top New Zealanders, were beaten finalists in 2014 and 2015.
Penguins manager Graeme Inglis said: “Last year we had a strong squad and played really well to reach the final, just edging YCAC in the semis. The final was really tight and it looked like we were heading for extra-time when they scored with a drop-kick and it was too late to come back.
Plate champions Kir Club Pyrenees of France, Australia’s King’s College at UQ, Scotland’s Projecx Waterboys and Hong Kong-based Scottish Exiles will also return after finishing in the top half of the 16-team competition last April.
Hosts Natixis HKFC will play in the event for the 33rd consecutive year since the 10-a-side tournament was inaugurated in 1986, while Irish Vikings, A-Trade Overseas Old Boys and Devil’s Own Shanghai RFC will compete for the 18th, 15th and seventh times respectively.
Crowd favourites Hunter + Boo East Africans – made up of internationals from Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda – will participate for a fourth straight year.
UBB Gavekal won the Cup for the first time last April with a primarily Hong Kong-based squad boosted by four Fiji Sevens backs who played on the 2016-17 World Rugby Sevens Series.
Inaugurated in 1986 to celebrate Hong Kong Football Club’s centenary, the GFI HKFC 10s has long attracted the game’s top players including seven All Blacks who won the 2015 Rugby World Cup – Conrad Smith, Jerome Kaino (both 2003), Ben Smith, Charlie Faumuina (both 2008), Beauden Barrett, Sam Cane (both 2010) and Nehe Milner-Skudder (2013).
Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen and Israel Dagg are among other All Blacks to have played at the 10s, while Australian stars have included George Gregan, Wendell Sailor and Joe Roff.
Other former stars include five-time World Cup star Brian Lima of Samoa, England’s Will Carling, Jeremy Guscott and Rory Underwood, and Scotland’s Gavin and Scott Hastings.
The full line-up, including at least two new teams, will be announced soon.