The world famous Penguins have been named top seeds for the 2009 GFI HKFC Tens as they aim to win the trophy for the first time in their illustrious history.
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The elite UK-based touring team – properly called Penguin International RFC – have been finalists at the popular tournament for the past two years and are determined to leave with the silverware this time.
“This will be our third visit to the Tens and after twice finishing as runners-up we’ll be aiming to go one better this time,” said manager Craig Brown.
“The competition will, as always, be tough, but we’re looking forward to playing some strong, attacking rugby in the Penguins tradition and hopefully this will be our year.”
Joining the Penguins in Pool A will be Hill & Associates Trox AITCS Hong Kong Barbarians, comprising many of the overseas professionals who play in the Hong Kong First Division, German newcomers the Wild Titans and the Wanchai Wanderers from Wales.
The Penguins will be aiming to end New Zealand’s eight-year winning streak at the Tens and will face strong opposition with Kiwi teams seeded two and three.
Perennial contenders Aliens are seeded No.2 and will be looking to add to their four victories, the last of which came in 2005.
The Alternative Legends – sponsored by a group of 15 rugby fans from the hedge fund industry – are seeded No.3 and, like the Penguins, are aiming for a first victory.
Scatterlings of Africa are newcomers to the Tens and have been named fourth seeds. The strong South African team will be spearheaded by Rugby World Cup winner Bobby Skinstad and will include other players with Super 14 experience.
Scatterlings will be favourites to top Pool D but will face a strong challenge from the Borneo Eagles, who impressed on their two previous visits to the tournament. Also in the pool are Cardiff University and the hosts, Hong Kong Football Club.
The chances of a new name appearing on the Tens trophy are strong this year as only Aliens among the top four seeds have previously won the tournament.
New Zealand Metro, winners for the past three years, are absent this time after being unable to secure a sponsor.
“Naturally, we’d like to be there among old friends at the best ten-a-side tournament in the world,” said Metro manager Barry Gallagher.
“Our best wishes go to the organisers and the 16 teams competing and we hope to be back at the Tens in 2010.”
Since Fiji’s Magicians triumphed at the Tens in 2000, teams from New Zealand have won the past eight editions of the tournament.
The 2009 GFI HKFC Tens will be held at Hong Kong Football Club in Happy Valley from March 25-26.
Sixteen club and invitational teams from around the world will compete for four trophies – the Cup, Plate, Bowl and Shield.
The Tens was first held in 1986 to celebrate HKFC’s centenary and is now firmly established as a highlight of the Asian rugby calendar.
The tournament is once again title sponsored by global cash and derivatives broker GFI.
Meanwhile, tickets are going fast for the Tens Dinner, which will see Skinstad make an earlier visit to Hong Kong to be guest speaker.
The event, at Football Club on Saturday, March 7, will feature Australian TV sports anchor Toby Lawson as MC and will include a live interactive quiz and an auction of unique memorabilia.
Tickets costing HK$880 per person or HK$8,000 per table of 10 can be obtained by downloading the booking form or by emailing nicolalaxtonmarketing.com.
GFI HKFC Tens draw (number in bracket denotes seeding)
Pool A: Penguins (1), Hill & Associates Trox AITCS Hong Kong Barbarians, Wild Titans, Wanchai Wanderers.
Pool B: Aliens (2), HKRFU Chairman’s X, French Pyrenees, China Agricultural University.
Pool C: Alternative Legends (3), Irish Vikings, Playmore Phantoms, Overseas Old Boys.
Pool D: Scatterlings of Africa (4), Borneo Eagles, Cardiff University, Hong Kong Football Club.