(This story first appeared on Howzit-HongKong.com)
The Hong Kong Football Club, hosts of the GFI Hong Kong Football Club Tens, announced that the tournament would expand to 24 international club sides.
It was also revealed today that former England international Lawrence Dallaglio would make a special appearance at the Tens in 2011.
The expansion from 16 teams last year is in part a celebration of the tournament hosts’ 125th anniversary celebrations in 2011. This year, 24 international teams from around the world have accepted invitations to take part in the GFI HKFC Tens, the popular kick-off to rugby week in Hong Kong ahead of the Hong Kong Sevens.
“Increasing the field to 24 teams was a natural way for us to help celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Hong Kong Football Club in 2011. With a free day and a post event party on Wednesday hosted by Tsunami, the GFI HKFC Tens is set to grow on both a competitive and social level, further reaffirming our position at the cutting edge of international ten-a-side rugby,” said Chris Harker, Chairman of the GFI HKFC Tens Organising Committee.
With the increased numbers of teams, the competitiveness of the GFI HKFC Tens is set to further increase, adding to its reputation as the world’s premier ten-a-side rugby competition. Team announcements and the official tournament draw will be held later this month.
The GFI HKFC Tens will take place on Wednesday and Thursday, March 23 and 24, 2011 at the Hong Kong Football Club.
Lawrence Dellaglio with Jonah Lomu (Pic: Warren Little/Getty Images Europe)
Former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio has been announced as the face of the Tens in 2011 and will be attending this year’s event. Lawrence was capped an astounding 85 times for England and at all three positions in the back row. He was a key member of the England team that won the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia and the only member of the England team to play every minute of the Rugby World Cup campaign that year.
After initially retiring due to the physical demands of the game in 2004, Lawrence returned to top-flight rugby for the 2005 British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand and was included in England’s 2007 Rugby World Cup Squad. He officially retired again in 2008 winning the 2008 Premiership Final in the same year with London Wasps, the only club he has ever played for. Lawrence has received several honours for his contribution to England sport including an MBE and OBE.
Dallaglio is no stranger to the abbreviated rugby codes having been an instrumental member of the England Sevens team that shocked the world by winning the inaugural Rugby World Cup Sevens in 1993 and playing in the Hong Kong Sevens in 1995 as part of a President’s Seven side in the days of invitational club rugby at the Hong Kong Sevens. On that occasion, Dallaglio and his teammates were edged out by Western Samoa in the Quarter Finals.
“I’ve never had the privilege of playing at the GFI HKFC Tens but am very much aware of the tournament. Tens is something different and clearly there is room for all versions of the game in the rugby calendar. Like sevens, tens is a fast paced, energetic, powerful and skilful game.”
“Hong Kong is a great city, it’s vibrant, it’s buzzing with a lot to do. Around the time of the Hong Kong Tens and Hong Kong Sevens, the whole city is even more exciting. I have not spent a lot of time in Hong Kong so it will be a great opportunity to get out and explore, not just the city itself but the surrounding areas.”
When quizzed about his toughest sevens opponent, Dallaglio paid tribute to a rugby legend who was his immediate predecessor as face of the Tens in 2010, Waisale Serevi. “Without a shadow of a doubt, Serevi was the greatest sevens player I played against. But I should also mention Eric Rush and Glen Osborne of New Zealand who were other great sevens players I came across.”
Face of last year’s GFI HKFC Tens Waisale Serevi with my son Ethan at last year’s Tens (Pic: Mike Jansen)
During his time in Hong Kong, Dallaglio will help highlight the GFI HKFC Tens and take part in the tournament’s official charity campaign in aid of the Deaf Society of Hong Kong.
Adding to the celebrations this year, the GFI HKFC Tens and official kit supplier Tsunami will be hosting a Tsunami after-party on the Wednesday evening of the Tens.
As part of the HKFC Anniversary Celebrations, organizers have again committed to offer free entry to members of the public on Wednesday, March 23. Entrance for the finals day (March 24) will be HKD$100.
(Picture credits: Mail Online and Warren Little/Getty Images Europe)