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20th November 2017

UBB Gavekal confirm GFI HKFC 10s defence with Clarkin as coach

Hong Kong; November 20, 2017: UBB Gavekal have confirmed that they will defend their Cup title at the 33rd edition of the GFI HKFC 10s, which will be held at Hong Kong Football Club from April 4-5, 2018.

New Zealander Matt Clarkin – former captain of Top 14 club Union Bordeaux Begles (UBB) – will return as UBB Gavekal’s head coach for the 10-a-side competition, which is held annually on the Wednesday and Thursday ahead of the Hong Kong Sevens.

UBB Gavekal team manager Jean-Baptiste Aldige, a former Valley and Hong Kong player, said the 36-year-old Clarkin’s early commitment was a huge boost ahead of the side’s defence of the Bill Burgess Cup.

“Matt’s return as head coach is very important for us as he was key to our GFI HKFC 10s success,” Aldige said of the France-based former No. 8 who retired from playing last year after six seasons with Bordeaux.

“We’re very proud to have given Matt his first experience as a coach. I believe he has enormous potential and I can see him as a future head coach at a top European club.”

UBB Gavekal won the GFI HKFC 10s for the first time this April with a primarily Hong Kong-based squad boosted by four contracted Fiji Sevens backs – Lemeki Tulele, Josua Vici, Samu Bale and Glen Cakautini – who all played on the 2016-17 World Rugby Sevens Series.

Aldige said he would again communicate about player availability with Fiji Sevens boss Gareth Baber, former head coach of the Hong Kong Sevens team.

Our Fijian players made a difference, but one we expected,” said Aldige, Managing Director of Sport Inside Asia, the Hong Kong-based sports marketing agency that represents UBB.

Gareth Baber is a top man and one of the most visionary sevens coaches on the Sevens Series, so we’ll renew the relationship with his squad based on his needs and ours.”

Aldige admitted that the title of defending champions would place new expectations on the team, which has the support of Hong Kong-based Louis-Vincent Gave, founder of financial services company Gavekal and a shareholder in UBB.

I know that as the champions, all the teams will be waiting for us, but our philosophy won’t change – we’re a challenger team who just try to compete with the big dogs,” Aldige said.

“However, even though I’ve just finished my playing career and don’t have the experience of some managers at the 10s, when you’ve tasted winning once, you want to taste it again.”

Eight of UBB Gavekal’s victorious 15-man squad were based in Hong Kong, while New Zealand-based stars included Tournament MVP Aorangi Stokes and flyhalf Nick Smith, who converted a late drop kick to pip 2016 champions Penguins 10-7 in the Cup final.

Aldige said he hoped several key players would return to the invitational tournament but that the winning line-up also reflected the growing strength of Hong Kong’s domestic Premiership, which has been won by Valley for the last five years.

“Like the Fijians, Aorangi and Nick also made the difference we expected and perfectly delivered the job. They’re in line to be invited again in 2018,” Aldige said.

“However, I think it’s also important that people know that eight of our squad were playing in Hong Kong. Each of those players were just as important. The Hong Kong league is definitely getting better and better, year after year.”

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, Mils Muliaina, Justin Marshall, Christian Cullen and Israel Dagg are among other All Blacks to have played at the 10s, while Australian stars have included George Gregan, George Smith, Wendell Sailor, Joe Roff, Toutai Kefu, Rod McCall, Tim Gavin, and Mark and Glen Ella.

Other former stars include South Africa’s Bob Skinstad and Cornall Hendricks, France’s Damien Traille, Fiji’s Waisale Serevi, 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.

GFI has title sponsored the event since 2006, while other sponsors and suppliers for 2018 include Allied World and Natixis (Gold Sponsors), DHL and Q-Net (Silver Sponsors), CBRE (Bronze Sponsor) and Samurai Sportswear (Official Apparel).

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