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13th Feburary 2018

‘Big Dell’ back as Classic Wallabies confirm GFI HKFC 10s return


USA’s CCIG Tigers and England’s Sedbergh School Old Boys to make tournament debut, rounding out 16-team line-up at Hong Kong Football Club


Hong Kong; February 13, 2018: Classic Wallabies will again field a star-studded team of former Australia internationals including Wendell ‘Big Dell’ Sailor as they return to Hong Kong Football Club for their second appearance at the GFI HKFC 10s from April 4-5.

CCIG Tigers, a development partner of USA Rugby, and a Sedbergh School Old Boys team captained by former England rugby league international Ewan Dowes will make their tournament debut, rounding out the 16-team line-up at the tournament’s 33rd edition.

Tim Horan, a Rugby World Cup winner in 1991 and 1999, and Bill Young, who played in the World Cup final against England in 2003, will be Classic Wallabies’ head coach and manager respectively as the crowd favourites follow up on last year’s tournament debut. The team’s sponsors this year include Kerry Hotel, Pegasystems, St James’s Place and Niseko Realty.

Sailor, Morgan Turinui – 2003 World Cup teammates – and Stephen Hoiles return from last year’s squad, while newcomers include former Australia internationals Mark Gerrard, Adam Freier, Julian Huxley and the 6ft 6in Peter Kimlin, currently playing in the Japan Top League.

Hoiles, 36, will also be part of the management and said the playing squad would again be boosted by a selection of rising stars following on from last year’s inclusion of fringe Australia Sevens players in Justin Harrison’s squad.

“Aside from the guys mentioned, we’ve got more Wallabies to announce including one or two more big names, plus we’ll have some younger players again,” said Hoiles, the former Waratahs and Brumbies flanker who played 16 times for Australia including at the 2007 World Cup.

“One of the best things about our trip last year was that three of the guys in our side (Dylan Pietsch, Tom Connor, Ben O’Donnell) have gone on to become Australia Sevens regulars.”

Classic Wallabies had an up-and-down tournament debut, threatening to upset two-time finalists Tradition YCAC in a 10-7 defeat in the pool stage and eventually losing in the semi-finals of the third-tier Bowl.

“I think the standard was great and we thought it would be because we’d heard a lot about the tournament. We expected it to be pretty hard,” Hoiles said. “It probably caught a couple of guys who had been away from the game by surprise, but that’s the balancing act for us – getting enough former Wallabies and enough up-and-comers.”

CCIG Tigers will also add international pedigree. Tiger Rugby has trained and fielded many national-team players including USA speedster Perry Baker, the 2017 World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, and five other Olympians.

Founded in 2007, the well-travelled touring side has played in invitational events in South Africa, Australia, Fiji, Argentina, Kenya, Scotland, Mexico and China.

The team will compete in the Las Vegas International Sevens Tournament in early March, in Hong Kong in early April and in Scotland later in the month for the Melrose Sevens. Tiger co-founders James Walker and Paul Holmes will be among the coaching team in Hong Kong where the side will make their 10-a-side debut.

As a development partner to USA Rugby, Tiger has unearthed many gems, with over 45 players going on to international honours,” said Walker, who coached former US club champions Belmont Shore.

“We’ve been thinking about coming to the GFI HKFC 10s for many years. Tiger Rugby is first and foremost a rugby development group. We’ve mainly played in sevens events, but recently more of our athletes are going onto 15s, so 10s is a natural progression for us.”

Holmes added: “At Tiger Rugby we always look to challenge ourselves by setting the bar as high as possible. The GFI HKFC 10s is shaping up to be one of the most difficult of the many challenges we’ve faced, which is why we’re taking part. It’s a world-class venue and will give the youngsters invaluable experience on and off the pitch. We can’t wait to get there.”

Sedbergh School is renowned for producing over 30 rugby union internationals including long-time England captain Will Carling and 2003 Rugby World Cup winner Will Greenwood, while Dowes is a rare public school-educated rugby league international.

Dowes, 36, played the majority of his rugby league career for Hull (2003-11), helping the side win the Challenge Cup in 2005 and reaching the Super League grand final a year later. Sedbergh School Old Boys will be coached by Yorkshireman Dan Harrison, who helped produce dozens of schoolboy internationals as coach of the school’s First XV for a decade.

Ben Collins, Sedbergh School’s Alumni Director, said: “Our pupils participate in the UK’s strongest national 10s tournament, which is hosted by Sedbergh School, so it was only fitting for our Old Boys to enter the world’s best 10s in Hong Kong. 

“We know how tough the competition is, we know the pace and that physically it’s a huge demand. It’s a very exciting challenge for us. We’re bringing a super-competitive group of players and we are keen to do well. Aside from Ewan, our other players have played rugby in the national leagues in the UK.”

UBB Gavekal, coached by former Union Bordeaux Begles captain Matt Clarkin, will defend their title, while other leading sides include two-time champions Penguins, three-time runners-up Samurai International and twice finalists Tradition YCAC.

Plate champions Kir Club Pyrenees of France, Australia’s King’s College sponsored by Strategic Equity Alliance, 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.

Irish Vikings, A-Trade Overseas Old Boys, Devil’s Own Shanghai RFC, Hunter + Boo East Africans and hosts Natixis HKFC are the other confirmed teams.

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

The My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, created in support of former Scotland and Lions lock Doddie Weir who is suffering from Motor Neurone Disease (MND), is the Official Charity.

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).

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