He was here…
The world’s best 10s is more than just a hashtag, it’s a title that has been earned since the inauguration in 1986 by attracting the highest quality of players of any 10-aside rugby tournament.
Hundreds of past, present and future internationals from over 20 countries have played in the Tradition HKFC 10s, including SEVEN of the All Blacks team that won the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England. In fact, the 10s has attracted 19 World Cup winners – including 10 All Blacks – from the inaugural World Cup in 1987 through to 2015.…
Early Years attracts many stars (1986-1995)
Before the advent of professionalism in 1995, England were arguably the biggest supplier of star dust to the 10s.
England stars at the 10s included prop Jeff Probyn, locks Wade Dooley and Paul Ackford, back-rowers Peter Winterbottom and Mickey Skinner, captain Will Carling and fellow centre Jeremy Guscott, and record-scoring wing Rory Underwood.
Carling helped White Hart Marauders reach the Cup final at the 10s in 1992, when they lost to a Warblers side led by former Australia flanker Bill Calcraft.
Woodward – who coached England to victory at the 2003 World Cup – reached the 1989 Cup final with Neary’s Select, arguably the first all-star side to compete at the 10s.
Scotland stars also started to come from 1990, when Gavin and Scott Hastings, and winger Iwan Tukalo of the 1990 Grand-Slam winning side all played for Edinburgh.
Australia were also well represented in the early years, particularly by the Warblers, who won the Cup with Glen Ella on their first two appearances in 1991 and 1992, and although Mark Ella appeared in 1993, they were unable to complete a hat-trick.
Wallaby lock Rod McCall, a World Cup winner in 1991, turned out for Warblers in 1992 and 1993, while No. 8 Ross Reynolds, scrumhalf Philip Cox and fullback Roger Gould also represented the star-studded side.
All Blacks flyhalf Wayne Smith and prop Bill Bush represented Belfast RFC in 1990, but centre Frank Bunce was the best-known of the New Zealand internationals of the early years as he helped the Warblers win successive titles in 1991 and 1992.
The Middle Years (1996-2005)
After rugby became professional in August 1995, many current and established internationals made their way over to Hong Kong with Australia, arguably, being the biggest supplier of stardust during this period.
The side featured the likes of the Ella brothers, fullback Roger Gould, hooker Tom Lawton, flanker Chris Roche, flyhalf Tony Melrose, No. 8 David Carter and centres Lloyd Walker, Matthew Burke (not to be confused with fullback Matt Burke, born 1973) and a young Nathan Grey, two years before he won the 1999 World Cup.
New Zealand internationals started to come in bigger numbers, along with a number of up-and-coming Kiwis who would go on to become All Blacks.
Scrumhalf Graeme Bachop, who played in the 1991, 1995 and 1999 World Cups (the latter for Japan), played for Aliens four times from 1996, while lock Jamie Joseph played three times from 1996, later returning to lead Otago Shepherds in 2003.
Sevens star Scott Pierce was a regular crowd favourite from the Aliens’ first appearance, while other New Zealand Sevens stars included flanker Dallas Seymour (2002), flanker Scott Waldrom (2007) and legendary scrumhalf Tomasi Cama, who played in the team’s final outing in 2010.
The 10s’ reputation for uncovering the stars of tomorrow was best illustrated in 2003, when five future All Blacks competed, including Jerome Kaino and Conrad Smith, long-time teammates and back-to-back World Cup winners in 2011 and 2015.
Kaino, then 19, was among four future All Blacks – along with centre Ben Atiga, flyhalf Nick Evans and giant forward Sione Lauaki – in a New Zealand Metro team that beat Aliens 24-12 in the Cup final. Smith, then 21, played for Otago Shepherds, before making his All Blacks debut in November 2004.
Three players from England’s 1995 World squad all appeared at the 10s. Prop Victor Ubogu and flanker Steve Ojomoh played for Marauders in 1996, while in 2002 No. 8 Tim Rodber and centre Phil De Glanville starred for Omgeo Legends.
Scott Hastings, formerly Scotland’s most-capped player, also played for Omgeo Legends that year, while big brother Gavin played for a star-studded Quality Street side in both 1994 and 1997.
In 2006, the star-studded trio of Joe Roff, Toutai Kefu and Matt Cockbain – who helped Australia win the 1999 Rugby World Cup – helped the International Panthers win the Plate competition.
Jonah Lomu, still the Rugby World Cup’s record try scorer despite only competing in the 1995 and 1999 editions, was the star name in 2007, playing for New Zealand Legends as they reached the Cup quarter-finals.
In 2008, Brian Lima was the star draw as he helped Hong Kong Barbarians win the Plate at Sports Road.
Fullback Israel Dagg and prop Charlie Faumuina both played for eventual champions New Zealand Metro before going on to win the World Cup in 2011 and 2015 respectively, while Ben Smith played for New Zealand Legends before he became a World Cup-winning star in 2015.
For 2010, the Hong Kong Barbarians signed up another rugby legend, Waisale Serevi, who represented Fiji in three Rugby World Cups (1991, 1999, 2003) and is renowned as the best sevens player of all time. Having won the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Hong Kong in 1997 and 2005, Serevi came back to the city to help the Barbarians win the Plate competition.
Two future World Cup-winning All Blacks also competed in 2010, as flanker Sam Cane shone for Samurai and Beauden Barrett ran out for Penguins.
However, the 10s enjoyed a new wave of ‘stardom’ in 2011 courtesy of the BGC Asia Pacific Dragons, coached by David Campese, whose 64 tries for Australia made him international rugby’s record try scorer until last year.
‘Campo’, had plenty to play with, including compatriot George Gregan, a 1999 Rugby World Cup winner and rugby’s most-capped international with 139 tests.
Justin Marshall, New Zealand’s highest-capped scrum-half with 81 appearances and Christian Cullen, New Zealand’s joint second-highest try scorer with 46, were two other genuine legends of the game.
In 2012, legendary New Zealand fullback Mils Muliaina – another Rugby World Cup winner – was the star name for the BGC Asia Pacific Dragons (APDs).
However, it was Nemani Nadolo who stole the show. For those who couldn’t believe this rampaging Fijian giant wasn’t playing at the top level, he went on to become Super Rugby’s top try scorer in 2014.
All Blacks Marty Holah joined the APDs in 2013, when fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder helped Penguins win the title two years before he was named Breakthrough Player of the Year after helping New Zealand win the World Cup.
In 2014, Australia legend George Smith captained the victorious Dragons side that featured former Wallaby Radike Samo, ‘Samoan Bulldozer’ Alesana Tuilagi and Fijian legend Rupeni Caucaunibuca.
Rico Gear and long-time USA captain Todd Clever played for Penguins in 2015, having both appeared twice for the Dragons in previous years.
In 2016 the APDs fielded three former All Blacks – scrumhalf Jimmy Cowan, prop Carl Hayman and lock Isaac Ross – but it was Super Bowl winner Nate Ebner who earned the most media attention as he helped Samurai into the final during his ultimately successful bid to secure a place in the USA Sevens team at the Rio Olympics.
In 2017, Ross returned for the APDs along with Springbok wing Cornal Hendricks. However, it was the Classic Wallabies who provided the most Test rugby stars – Wendell ‘Big Dell’ Sailor, Morgan Turinui, Luke Burgess and Stephen Hoiles – while France legend Damien Traille led Kir Club Pyrenees to victory in the Plate.
Wendell Sailor and Stephen Hoiles again returned in 2018 with the Classic Wallabies but it was Fijian legend Nasoni Roko, who created the most hype. Roko, who scored 125 tries on the World Rugby Sevens Series and won the 2005 Rugby World Cup Sevens, helped lead Samurai to a Plate title.