Prop Carl Hayman believes BGC Asia Pacific Dragons are “good enough to win” the 31st GFI HKFC 10s, while former All Blacks teammate Jimmy Cowan agrees the three-time champions have “a lot of talent on show”
Hong Kong; April 4, 2016: Legendary tighthead prop Carl Hayman believes the BGC Asia Pacific Dragons have a squad good enough to win a fourth GFI HKFC 10s title this week, but warns “there are a lot of other teams trying to do well”.
While the three former All Blacks are among six Kiwis in the 16-man APDs squad, there are also six Fijians, three Tongans and former Japan centre Sione Vatuvei.
The 6-foot 6-inch lock Sekonaia Kalou, who played for Fiji in the 2011 Rugby World Cup, adds height and experience to a powerful pack featuring the 6-foot 4-inch Hayman and former All Black lock Isaac Ross, who stands 6-foot 7-inches.
Scrumhalf Emosi Vucago, who represented Fiji in 15s and sevens, is joined in the backs by flyhalf Aseri Vatuinaruka, centre Avete Daveta and wings Aminio Nasera and Joe Lilidamu, a Fijian who has represented Japan Sevens. Lilidamu, 26, was the top scorer in the 2013 GFI HKFC 10s with 10 tries and scored five last year.
Hayman, who won 45 caps for the All Blacks, was impressed with the talent on show as the three former All Blacks joined their new teammates in a training session at Hong Kong Football Club.
“We’ve got a squad good enough to win it, but it’s a matter of how we approach the games and how we turn up,” said Hayman, who has helped Toulon win the European Champions Cup for three successive years before retiring last year.
“The APDs have done well at the 10s over the last few years and we hope to continue on that path, but at the start of any game it’s all up for grabs. There are a lot of other teams here trying to do well.”
While Hayman is visiting Hong Kong for the first time, Cowan has been before, representing New Zealand against Australia in the Bledisloe Cup in 2008 and 2010.
In February, the former Highlanders, Gloucester and Blues scrumhalf played for the APDs in a 15-a-side Super Rugby pre-season warm-up against Western Force in Perth, so has already played with some of his teammates this week.
“Obviously there’s a lot of talent on show. The team’s based around the Pacific islands, so we’ve got a lot of Fijians, Samoans and Tongans,” Cowan said.
“They play an attractive brand of rugby and they obviously want to show what they’ve got, so hopefully we see some of that on Wednesday and Thursday.”
Cowan is playing 10s for the first time, but said he and other players new to the format would be ready by Wednesday, when the top seeds play Irish Vikings, A-Trade Overseas Old Boys and Devils Own Shanghai Rugby in Pool A.
“It’s the first time I’ve experienced the 10-a-side format, so we’re learning as we go,” Cowan said.
“I’m looking forward to it. Obviously you’ve got to have some systems in place and try to play it quite strategically. We’ll learn more over these two days, then look forward to Wednesday and Thursday.”
Tradition YCAC, runners-up for the past two years, 2013 champions Penguins and Samurai make up the ‘big four’ teams this week and are seeded second, third and fourth respectively.
Samurai are bidding to win the Cup for the first time after finals losses in 2010 and 2013, and have a star-studded, seven-nation squad featuring 2015 Super Bowl champion Nate Ebner, four England Sevens players, six New Zealanders, a Wales Sevens forward and Canada 15s captain Hubert Buydens, a veteran of the last two World Cups.
Wales Sevens forward Luke Crocker and James Cordy-Redden played for Samurai in last year’s GFI HKFC 10s. Cordy-Redden earned an England Sevens contract for 2015-16 and the fullback has returned to Hong Kong with international teammates Cameron Cowell and Ben Foley, both wingers, and scrumhalf John Brake, who will play as a hooker in the 10s.
Renowned as the world’s best annual 10-a-side tournament, the GFI HKFC 10s has long attracted the game’s top players including seven of the New Zealand team who won the 2015 Rugby World Cup – Conrad Smith, Jerome Kaino, Ben Smith, Beauden Barrett, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Sam Cane and Charlie Faumuina.
Along with GFI, other sponsors in 2016 include Allied World, Natixis and Rugby Pass (gold sponsors), DHL, Q-Net, Swire Properties and Withers (silver), Cashmaster, CBRE, CPA Global, EY, Markel, Structure Tone and Tricor (bronze), Pure Blonde (official beer), Highland Spring (official water) and Tsunami (official apparel). Make-A-Wish Hong Kong is this year’s official charity.
Information Source : i3 Sports / GFI HKFC 10s
All Blacks talk up defending champions at GFI HKFC 10s