FWD SOUTH CHINA TIGERS OUT TO FINISH GRR SHOWCASE SERIES IN STYLE
FWD South China Tigers, China’s Greater Bay Area’s first ever professional rugby club, are out to conclude their debut participation in the Global Rapid Rugby Asian Showcase Series in style with a win over series champions Western Force. The Force will make their local debut against the Tigers in the finale of the Showcase Series on Sunday at Aberdeen (kick-off 16.00).
Entering Hong Kong with a perfect 3-0 record, the Force have already secured the title and the 50,000 AUD prize purse for the region’s champions ahead of Sunday’s tie, but this is no dead rubber match for the Tigers.
“There is a lot riding on this game for us,” said coach Craig Hammond.
“We are level with the Asia Pacific Dragons on points, so hopefully we can put in a good shift and beat the Force on Sunday, or at least secure a couple of bonus points and claim second. I think that would be a fair reflection of our performance in the Showcase, and help us build momentum for next year when they are talking about eight or ten teams in the competition,” said Hammond.
The kick-off of the Asia Rugby Championship later this month is also a factor in the planning for this weekend’s match, with several of the Tigers’ Hong Kong internationals and prospective internationals starting on Sunday, including Matt Rosslee who starts at fly-half, with Glyn Hughes moving to the bench after starting all three previous matches in the no.10 jersey.
Lock Kyle Sullivan also earns his first start after adding impact from the bench in the opening three matches. Sullivan will partner with fellow Hong Kong cap Fin Field in the second row against the Force.
Hong Kong prop and hooker, Ben Higgins and Dayne Jans respectively, continue their steady comebacks from injury lay-offs with starts against the Force, while co-captains lock James Cunningham and scrumhalf Liam Slatem, are both starting in expectation of playing similar roles for Hong Kong at the end of May. Hammond has also rolled out the red carpet for a few returning sevens squad members, whom are also expected to be involved in Hong Kong’s fifteens campaign, with Jack Neville and Kane Boucaut both included in the selection against the Force.
Neville, who impressed on his Tigers debut a fortnight ago in Singapore earns the start at fullback, with Nathan De Thierry getting a deserved rest after anchoring the back three in the opening games.
The explosive Neville will form a back three trio with Tom Varndell and Harry Sayers, on his Tigers debut, just weeks after debuting for the Hong Kong sevens squad at the Singapore Sevens. The Hong Kong-born, UK-raised Sayers, who returned to the SAR this season to play in the domestic competition, is now looking to press his claim for a spot in the Hong Kong fifteens squad in the coming months.
“Harry and Jack can give us a bit of spark out wide. They are both sort of x-factor players and have been in good form for their clubs this season and the sevens squad. They are dynamic ball carriers and Jack was probably our best player a couple of weeks ago in Singapore, so we want to give them both a chance to see how they go,” said Hammond.
Adult tickets for Sunday’s match start from HK$200 via: www.zoonga.com.au/globalrapidrugby.
FWD South China Tigers (12 May)
1. Ben HIGGINS, 2. Dayne JANS, 3. Tau KOLOMATANGI, 4. Fin FIELD, 5. Kyle SULLIVAN, 6. James CUNNINGHAM (co-capt), 7. James SAWYER, 8. Luke Van Der SMIT, 9. Liam SLATEM, 10. Matt ROSSLE, 11. Tom VARNDELL, 12. Tom HILL, 13. Ben AXTEN-BURRETT, 14. Tom VARNDELL, 15. Jack NEVILLE, 16. Mitch ANDREWS, 17. Callum MCFEAT-SMITH, 18. Fai SOLOMONA 19. Kane BOUCAUT, 20. Josh DOWSING, 21. Bryn PHILLIPS, 22. Sami VIRIVIRI, 23. Glyn HUGHES.