RUGBY’S GLOBETROTTERS: WESTERN FORCE SET FOR HONG KONG DEBUT
The Western Force will make their inaugural appearance in Hong Kong when the former Super Rugby outfit face off against the FWD South China Tigers in the finale of the Global Rapid Rugby Asian Showcase Series this Sunday at Aberdeen (kick-off 16.00).
A gruelling 7-3 win over the Asia Pacific Dragons last week in Singapore was enough to seal the inaugural showcase title, (and the 50,000 AUD prize purse for the region’s champions), for the Perth outfit, which improved its record to a perfect 3-0 from their first Asian outing ahead of Sunday’s tie.
Coach Tim Sampson is pleased with what he has seen from his team in the early going, saying:
“We are happy. I think having had that first game against the World XV, [ed: pre-season match played in Perth under Global Rapid Rugby rules, won by Force 26-16], was a bonus. Throughout the Series, we have performed consistently well, but we have another tough job to do this weekend, travelling up to Hong Kong on a short-turnaround after Singapore.”
Sampson can be especially pleased considering his barnstorming team has been put to some unique tests during the Global Rapid Rugby campaign, including touring Japan for two matches (played under traditional World Rugby laws) against professional clubs while the Tigers and Dragons were battling it out a fortnight ago.
That code hopping came with its challenges, but the results were well worth it for Sampson:
“It certainly was a challenge. Having those games in Japan and playing the traditional laws, all we could really do was focus on a few little things in that week leading into the game. Just working on the details, and having guys practicing kicking into touch on the full again, you certainly want to do that against the Japanese because they love that quick, up-tempo style of game.
“We did that tour to build the exposure for Global Rugby across Asia. With the uncertainty around world rugby and in Japan now that the Sunwolves have been punted out of Super Rugby, I think it was just to get a foot in the door there and get that exposure which is really important. Global Rapid Rugby’s vision is really important for the game as a whole. The game has to evolve and rugby is one of the few sports that has not evolved over the years.
“Look at Rugby League and Aussie Rules in Australia, they have introduced subtle changes over the years, rugby is the only game that has not evolved, and I think that Global Rapid Rugby’s new law changes and the push into Asia is fantastic. It’s small steps I know, but I think there will be a lot of interest in Global Rapid Rugby come the back end of this year and into next year,” Sampson added.
Sampson’s interests will no doubt be focused on his side’s immediate future and posting another good performance to keep their perfect record intact, but he knows the Tigers will be out to finish on a high as well.
“From when we first played them [ed: 45-22 win for the home team in Perth], they have improved immensely. They play a smart tactical game and can vary their game up as well, and they have guys that control the game very well. I have been impressed by their halves, co-captain Liam Slatem and Matt Rosslee and Glyn Hughes has also played well. They have quality throughout the team and have had a bit of consistency across their squad. They have a lot of strike power from one to 15 and a bit of size up front, which is always difficult to handle,” he added.
Following the conclusion of the Asian Showcase Series on Sunday, the Force will contest the Pacific Showcase Series against Fijian Latui and Samoan Kagifa in May and June with another $50,000 AUD on offer for the winners.
Adult tickets for Sunday’s match start from HK$200 via: www.zoonga.com.au/globalrapidrugby.