All Blacks trio boost BGC APDs bid for fourth GFI HKFC 10s title
Jimmy Cowan, Carl Hayman and Isaac Ross will make their GFI HKFC 10s debut for defending champions BGC Asia Pacific Dragons at Hong Kong Football Club next week .
March 30, 2016: Former All Blacks Jimmy Cowan, Carl Hayman and Isaac Ross will star for the BGC Asia Pacific Dragons (APDs) at next week’s GFI HKFC 10s as the side bid for a third successive Cup title and a fourth overall at Hong Kong Football Club.
After winning in 2012 and beating Tradition YCAC in the last two finals, the APDs are attempting to become only the fourth team to win the Cup for three straight years and match New Zealand Metro, Fijian side Magicians and New Zealand Forces Southeast Asia.
Cowan is looking forward to his return to Hong Kong, where he played for New Zealand against Australia in the 2008 and 2010 Bledisloe Cups, scoring a try in the latter.
The 34-year-old scrumhalf will make his GFI HKFC 10s debut just two months after representing the APDs against Australian Super Rugby side Western Force in a 15-a-side pre-season match in Perth, where Ross was among his teammates.
“It’s great to be playing for the BGC Asia Pacific Dragons in the GFI HKFC 10s for the first time. This is a big year for us, as we played played Western Force in February and in June we play the World Club 10s in Mauritius,” said Cowan, part of New Zealand’s World Cup-winning team in 2011.
“Isaac also played against the Force and I played with Carl in the All Blacks, so it will be great to team up with them in Hong Kong, as everyone’s vying for spots to be on the plane to Mauritius.
“Obviously there’s the added pressure at Hong Kong Football Club as we are defending champions, but we’re looking forward to the challenge and and it looks like we’ve got a good squad. I played in the Bledisloe Cup in Hong Kong twice and scored a try in the second match, so hopefully I can contribute again this time. I’m looking forward to going back.”
Cowan won 51 caps for the All Blacks and was still playing Super Rugby last year, for the Blues, having spent 10 years with the Highlanders and two seasons with Gloucester. Ross, 31, played for Crusaders, Highlanders and Chiefs, and won eight caps before moving to Japan’s Top League in 2011.
Hayman established himself as one of the world’s best props while winning 45 caps from 2001 to 2007 before playing for Newcastle Falcons (2007-10) and Toulon (2010-15), helping the French giants win the European Champions Cup for the past three seasons.
The APDs squad also features four former 10s champions, including former Fiji scrumhalf Emosi Vucago from the 2014 side. Tongan prop Sione Lea and flying wingers Joe Lilidamu – the 10s’ top try scorer in 2013 – and Shannon Chase are retained from last year, when the speedsters scored five and three tries respectively.
Former Tonga centre Rocky Havili and North Harbour back rower Anthony Matoto, who has played for Tonga at the Hong Kong Sevens, are among the squad’s newcomers along with young Fijian backs Avete Daveta, Aminio Nasera and Aseri Vatuinaruka.
Reuben Parkinson, the 42-year-old former Japan centre who played at the 2003 Rugby World Cup, is the successor to former head coach Tana Umaga, who guided the APDs to their titles in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
Hale T-Pole, who competed in his second World Cup for Tonga last year, will be assistant coach for a second year after playing for the APDs in their first four appearances. Justin Marshall, New Zealand’s most-capped scrumhalf, will be the team’s Ambassador.
The APDs have been the tournament’s most high-profile side since their debut in 2011, when Wallaby legend George Gregan skippered a squad featuring Marshall, Christian Cullen, Rico Gear and tournament MVP Viliame Satala to the final.
Marshall, Australia icon George Smith and long-time Tonga captain Nili Latu were the APDs’ winning captains in 2012, 2014 and 2015 respectively.
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.
Since GFI began its title sponsorship in 2006, the 10s has featured Joe Roff and Toutai Kefu (both 2006), Jonah Lomu (2007), Brian Lima and Israel Dagg (2008), Bob Skinstad (2009), Waisale Serevi (2010), George Gregan and Christian Cullen (2011), Justin Marshall (2011, 2012), Mils Muliaina (2012), Marty Holah (2013), George Smith, Alesana Tuilagi and Rupeni Caucaunibuca (2014), Todd Clever (2012, 2013, 2015) and Rico Gear (2011, 2013, 2015).
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.
Press release distributed by i3 Sports on behalf of GFI HKFC 10s