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31th March 2016

Super Bowl champ Ebner, England 7s quartet spearhead Samurai

The teenage Nate Ebner representing USA U20. Photo: World Rugby.

Nate Ebner – the American footballer turned Olympic rugby sevens hopeful – will team up with four England Sevens players, a Wales Sevens forward, the Canada 15s captain and six New Zealanders in a star-studded, seven-nation Samurai squad sponsored by Mourant Ozannes

Hong Kong; March 31, 2016: Nate Ebner, the 2015 Super Bowl champion aiming to represent USA’s rugby sevens team in the Olympics, has joined four England Sevens players and the current Canada 15s captain in a star-studded Samurai squad aiming to win the GFI HKFC 10s for the first time.

For their 10th appearance in the ‘World’s Best 10s’, Samurai have assembled one of their strongest-ever squads – including six New Zealanders – as they seek to finally lift the Bill Burgess Cup at Hong Kong Football Club, where they lost in finals in 2010 and 2013.

Terry Sands, who founded Samurai International RFC in 1996, is a former team manager for England Sevens and 15s, and his relationships with current England Sevens boss Simon Amor and USA Sevens coach Mike Friday have helped him pull together a powerful seven-nation squad.

“We have a great relationship with Simon Amor and England Sevens that has rolled over from my days as team manager and we’re so pleased that he agreed to release a few of his contracted players for us for the GFI HKFC 10s. To then get a call from Mike Friday to confirm that Nate Ebner was available was the icing on the cake for us in our 20th anniversary year,” said Sands, who has created one of the world’s most successful invitational teams.

“We have a real Barbarians-style squad this year from six different countries and although it wont be easy, we’re going to give it our best shot. We have struggled to make ends meet for this tournament, but Mourant Ozannes have been great to us and it’s nice to repay them with great players and a great bunch of guys.”

Paul Christopher, Hong Kong Managing Partner for Mourant Ozannes, added: “We're excited and delighted to see such a high calibre of players making up this year's team and the addition of Nate Ebner has really added to that excitement. We're looking forward to following their progress and wish them all the best for the tournament.”

Ebner, 27, made headlines in mid-March when the New England Patriots safety took a leave of absence to train with USA Sevens as the Eagles compete in the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and prepare for the Rio Olympics in August.

At 17, Ebner was the youngest player in USA Sevens history and starred for 15-a-side rugby teams at international age-grade tournaments, but started playing American football in college and was drafted by the Patriots in 2012.

Ebner will play as a centre in Hong Kong and will be surrounded by teammates from New Zealand, South Africa, England, Wales, France and Canada.

After playing for Samurai in last year’s GFI HKFC 10s, James Cordy-Redden went on to earn an England Sevens contract for 2015-16. The fullback will return to Hong Kong with international teammates Cameron Cowell and Ben Foley, both wingers, and scrumhalf John Brake, who could play hooker for Samurai.

Like Cordy-Redden, Wales Sevens forward Luke Crocker returns after playing for Samurai last year and is joined by some heavy hitters up front, including Canada prop Hubert Buydens, who captained his country at the recent Americas Rugby Championship after playing his second straight World Cup last year.

Samurai have six New Zealanders, including four playing in the ITM Cup, the country’s top domestic competition. Hawkes Bay star Trent Boswell-Wakefield is back for Samurai after playing in 2012 and is one of four Kiwi back-rowers with Waikato duo Murray Iti and Adam Burn, and Daniel Temm, who has blossomed at Newcastle Falcons in England after originally moving to the UK to play cricket!

Nathan Vella, the former Auckland and London Welsh hooker, will captain the squad, while Taranaki flyhalf Liam McBride, his Kiwi compatriot, is vice-captain. Scrumhalf Rhys Downes (Wales), centre Jos Malherbe (South Africa) and wing Jaques Boussuge (France) also feature in the 16-man squad.

Nick Wakley, the former Wales Sevens player now working with Newport Gwent Dragons Sevens and Ebbw Vale, and Jon Curry, the Northampton Saints academy coach, re-unite as Samurai’s coaching duo for a third straight year.

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.


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