China’s newest professional rugby club, the FWD South China Tigers, announced their side for the club’s first ever Global Rapid Rugby home game against Singapore’s Asia Pacific Dragons at Aberdeen Sports Ground on Sunday. Facing a physical test in the Dragons, a squad comprised of current and ex-internationals from the Pacific Islands, coach Craig Hammond and the Tigers have responded by bringing in their own heavyweights. “They are big. The team, the subs, everyone; they are big fellahs, which is a different challenge to what we normally play against. They have a lot of international players with high-level footy experience, while we haven’t played against many Pacific Island teams, so that’s another challenge,” Hammond said. A Dragons squad that featured 11 internationals, largely drawn from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, with a sprinkling of Australian sevens players and ex-Super Rugby stars, lost 42-10 to Western Force in Perth in their season-opener last Friday. The Tigers also dropped their opener to the Force, 45-22, making Sunday’s tie a must-win for Hammond’s side if they hope to stay in contention for the Asian Showcase Series crown and the A$50,000 prize on offer for the champions. “It is a must win. Next week we go to Singapore where it will be tough to play the Dragons, and after that we have the Force at home, which is another huge test. So Sunday is both a massive challenge and an opportunity for us. In this competition, you have to win at home and this is a great opportunity for the Tigers brand and to get people behind us.” They have a lot international players with high-level footy experience, while we haven’t played against many Pacific Island teams, so that’s another challenge Craig Hammond, Tigers coach With a perfect 2-0 record and double bonus points available in each match, the Force are comfortably on top of the table with 12 points, leaving the Tigers needing a sweep against the Dragons to stay in contention for the title ahead of the Force’s inaugural visit to Hong Kong next month. Preparing for only their second outing in Global Rapid Rugby, the Tigers sights are set more narrowly on this weekend’s clash. The squad sees five changes from the team that played Western Force, including the addition of two-metre tall lock Craig Lodge and No 8 Luke van der Smit, a rangy back rower who spent time in the South Africa Sevens academy set-up. The Tigers also welcome the return of Hong Kong prop Ben Higgins in his first action since the Rugby World Cup repechage in November. Hammond noted that the inclusions are based on merit and not size, saying: “physically they will be good out on the pitch, but they have all taken their opportunities well in training and deserve this opportunity.” Scrum half and co-captain Liam Slatem will also get his first taste of Rapid Rugby after missing the opening match for the birth of his son and will pair with his compatriot and Sandy Bay teammate van der Smit. Hammond, manager Andrew Hall and positional coach Brett Wilkinson have been working hard with the forwards to prepare for what looks to be a titanic battle on Easter Sunday. The Force’s pack gave the Tigers more than they bargained for and the scrum is expected again to be a key contest this weekend. “They did more than just hold their own versus the Force in the scrum, so we must get our set piece right and that has been a massive focus for us this week. We need a good defensive effort and to stop them at the gain line. When they got behind the Force they were dangerous. We can’t let them get that go forward and offload game, or allow them to bring their big men into the game.” The Hong Kong centre pairing of Matt Rosslee and Lewis Warner return for a second run in midfield with the club’s two marquee signings – Tom Varndell and Fiji gold medallist Samisoni Viriviri – posing plenty of threat on the wings; Nathan de Thierry earns his second start at fullback.