My love affair with the Hong Kong 10s

My love affair with the Hong Kong 10s

Hong Kong is what all 7s, 10s and 15s players dream of. It has been the tournament that has always stood on its own due to its heritage, the south stand and the World Cups, but what is often lost among the hoopla of the 7s is the true festival of rugby that is played over 5 days. On the Wednesday and Thursday before the IRB Sevens, the Hong Kong Football Club hosts the GFI 10s, featuring 16 of the best invitational 10s team from around the world. The 10s has made a name for itself as a stomping ground for future stars from all forms of the game. Mix that with many stars of the past and a stunning setting, in the shadow of the world famous Sevens; it does not get any better.

Hong Kong is what all 7s, 10s and 15s players dream of. It has been the tournament that has always stood on its own due to its heritage, the South Stand and the World Cups, but what is often lost among the hoopla of the 7s is the true festival of rugby that is played over 5 days.

On the Wednesday and Thursday before the IRB Sevens, the Hong Kong Football Club hosts the GFI 10s, featuring 16 of the best invitational teams from around the world. The 10s has made a name for itself as a stomping ground for future stars from all forms of the game. Mix that with many stars of the past and a stunning setting, in the shadow of the world famous Sevens; it does not get any better.

There are a number of imitators around the world and many of them see more teams participate, more players compete and more spectators in seats but there is something about the 10s in Hong Kong.

I was lucky enough to be involved with a side that went to the 10s a few years back. This tour was my first experience of being directly involved with the rugby during the Hong Kong Rugby week, rather than my normal judgemental role; it was an experience that I will never forget.

Every type of rugby person was involved in the tournament, from the Cardiff University rugby team, who embraced it in only the way a university team can, the Irish Vikings, made up of national league stalwarts from the UK and the French Pyrenees looking to make a name for themselves. Not forgetting the various home town teams that bring in the crowds, the teams endorsed by big businesses and side like the Aliens, Penguins and New Zealand Metro who were made up of Super 14 players and former stars.

All of these sides were in the same tournament and all were competitive; not a whipping boy in sight.

As is the case with any tournament there had to be a winner and the better sides battled it out for the Cup competition, but all four finals at the end of day 2 were fantastic. 10s is a great game, there is less space resulting in many of the old war horses out there getting to enjoy the rugby tour like the young 7s studs do.

Speed Kills in 10s

Speed still kills in 10s, but with a little more structure, the game sees players come at it with a mix of fitness, strength, speed and intelligence, this blend is less frequently seen on a 7s or 15s field. The breakdown area is as important as ever but suddenly the set-piece is involved once more. The scrum and line-out can become complicated ways of restarting the game in 7s that neither forwards nor backs are too fussed with. In 10s though, teams can win and lose games in the set-piece which results in a game that is basically a quicker more proactive version of the rugby we know from the full sized game.

We originally fell in love with the game of rugby due to the 15s code, not 7s. However the stale, slow kick-a-thon that 15’s has become is the reason why so many fans are turning to 7s for entertainment. For me 10s fills this gap perfectly, I have a love for the game that started from playing it as a young man, but now as a spectator I realise that 10s can be related to the game we watch week in week out with all of the benefits of 7s.

Jim Jenner - the ripe age of 38

Players often feel the same, take for example Jim Jenner. Jim will be playing for the Irish Vikings in Hong Kong at the ripe age of 38; he played 7s for England in 1998 and couldn't honestly hope to compete with Super 14 players in 7s due to the physical capability of someone half his age (19). Jim knows the game of rugby inside out, his experience and intelligence makes him an absolutely vital cog in the Vikings wheel. Oh and by the way Jim is also a rather large backrow forward...

As for the HK 10s itself, the tournament blows me away each and every year, and this year is no difference. The tournament team sheet includes the like of Bobby Skinstad and Robbie Fleck, playing for the Scatterlings of Africa, former Scotland coach Frank Hadden coaching the Penguins and Waisali Serevi is making his HK 10s debut. Just think about this for a minute... how many tournaments in the world can you find home town lads playing for the club they grew up playing for, World Cup winners, 6 Nations coaches, Super 14 players, National League players, premiership players, BUSA University players and the greatest player who ever played 7s.

Need I say anymore?

JB