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2nd April 2018

Roko’s all-Fijian squad eager to win GFI HKFC 10s title for Samurai

Samurai’s Fijian stars impress on first practice day, while UBB Gavekal’s five Fiji Sevens players team up with New Zealanders for defending champions 

Hong Kong; April 2, 2018: Fiji Sevens legend Nasoni Roko is desperate to coach Samurai’s all-Fijian squad to victory in this week’s 33rd GFI HKFC 10s after suffering the frustration of a painful defeat in the 2013 final at Hong Kong Football Club.

 
Roko was part of an all-Fijian Samurai squad that almost beat Penguins in the decider five years ago, but soon after having a try disallowed, they conceded a late try to lose 21-14. Samurai also lost in the final in 2010 to Aliens and in 2016 to Penguins after extra-time.
 
Roko, who’s still playing competitively, is now determined for the fourth seeds to win the Bill Burgess Cup at their 12th time of trying – 18 years after he made his debut for the UK-based touring side.
 
“We came so close in 2013. In the last minute, they disallowed a try for one of our teammates and we talk about it a lot, so this year we want to win the first Hong Kong 10s title for Samurai,” said Roko, who still ranks among the top 20 all-time try scorers on the World Rugby Sevens Series with 125.
 
I first played for Samurai in 2000 when I was 20 and a young kid on that team, and now it’s 2018 and I am the oldest. I coach Tabadamu in Fiji, but this is my first international tournament as a coach. I’ve brought all the players over from Fiji and it’s a good experience for me to come and coach in this environment.”
 
Roko, who scored 125 tries on the World Rugby Sevens Series and won the 2005 Rugby World Cup Sevens, is still in great shape and last month helped Tabadamu win the Marist 7s for the fourth successive year.
 
The 38-year-old said he may play on Wednesday when teams are allowed up to 18 players, versus 16 on Thursday, but is otherwise confident in his squad which includes scrumhalf Emosi Vucago, the former Fiji Sevens captain who scored 98 tries in 181 matches, and 2016 Olympic gold medallist Masivesi Dakuwaqa.
 
“They are all good,” Roko said. “Most of the players are playing seven-a-side in Fiji. We’ve recently had a big sevens tournament in Fiji, the Marist 7s, and these boys are fit, they are well and we are looking forward to the tournament.”
 
Samurai are in a tough Pool D with reigning Plate winners Kir Club Pyrenees, whose squad features many players attached to Top 14 clubs in France, Hong Kong-based Taikoo Place Scottish Exiles and newcomers Sedbergh School Old Boys from England.
 
Samu Bale, Roko’s Tabadamu teammate, will be his rival this week as he returns for defending champions UBB Gavekal after scoring four tries in last year’s GFI HKFC 10s, weeks before he made his Sevens Series debut for Fiji in Paris.
 
The 25-year-old winger is one of the top seeds’ five contracted Fiji Sevens players along with fellow backs Sakeo Raloa and Leveni Kurimalawai, and forwards Keponi Paul and Vasikali Mudu, who made his Sevens Series debut in Las Vegas in February.
 
UBB Gavekal captain Nick Smith was delighted to be reunited with Bale and looking forward to linking up with the Fijian contingent especially Raloa, who has been described as “the next sevens star” by former Fiji Sevens coach Ben Ryan.
 
I’m very happy to see Samu and the friends he’s brought with him. Raloa is one of the players who has been talked about a lot. He’s going to bring a lot to our team and he’s going to be targeted a lot, but he’s a superstar and everyone knows him,” said Smith, who last year kicked 11 conversions, one penalty and the last-minute drop-kick to beat Penguins 10-7 in the final.
 
“The Fijians will give us a lot of pace, a lot of tries and a lot of celebrations, that’s for sure. These guys have flair and that’s why we’ve got them here. They’re absolute superstars and everyone enjoys watching them, and it’s going to be great to play with them again.”
 
The flyhalf was also happy to be reunited with former UBB captain Matt Clarkin, who will be the side’s head coach for the second straight year.
 
“It’s really good to have Matty back and he’s got the boys working really well together already,” said Smith, one of 11 New Zealanders in the provisional 20-man squad that will be trimmed to 18 for Wednesday. “He brings a lot of experience and has been at Bordeaux many years. He’s a really cool head under pressure.”
 
Last year, Bale and three other Fiji Sevens backs – Lemeki Tulele, Josua Vici and Glen Cakautini – scored 12 tries between them as UBB Gavekal defied their 11th-seed status to win the Bill Burgess Cup for the first time.
 
The team won the Bowl on their debut in 2015 and finished runners-up in the third-tier competition in 2016, but last year secured the Fijian quartet with the cooperation of Fiji Sevens coach Gareth Baber.
 
On Wednesday, UBB will face the star-studded Classic Wallabies, A-Trade Overseas Old Boys and Hunter + Boo East Africans in Pool A.
 
GFI has title sponsored the event since 2006. Other sponsors and suppliers for 2018 include Natixis (Gold Sponsor), AIA, Allied World, BT, DHL, Q-Net and Taikoo Place (Silver Sponsors), CBRE, EY and Markel (Bronze Sponsors), Last Word Media, Volvo (Official Car), Grolsch (Official Beer) and Samurai Sportswear (Official Apparel).
 
The Official Charity is the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, created in support of former Scotland and Lions lock Doddie Weir who is suffering from Motor Neurone Disease (MND).
 
Inaugurated in 1986 to celebrate Hong Kong Football Club’s centenary, the GFI HKFC 10s has long attracted the game’s top players including seven All Blacks who won the 2015 Rugby World Cup – Conrad Smith, Jerome Kaino (both 2003), Ben Smith, Charlie Faumuina (both 2008), Beauden Barrett, Sam Cane (both 2010) and Nehe Milner-Skudder (2013).
 
33rd GFI HKFC 10s 2018: Pool Stage
Seeding in brackets
Pool A: UBB Gavekal (1), Classic Wallabies (8), A-Trade Overseas Old Boys (12), Hunter + Boo East Africans (16)
Pool B: Turkish Airlines Penguins (2), Projecx Waterboys (7), Irish Vikings (11), Natixis HKFC (15)
Pool C: Tradition YCAC (3), King’s College sponsored by Strategic Equity Alliance (6)
CCIG Tigers (10), Devil’s Own Shanghai Silver Dragons (14)
Pool D: Samurai International (4), Kir Club Pyrenees (5), Taikoo Place Scottish Exiles (9) Sedbergh School Old Boys (13)
 
Schedule:         www.hongkongtens.com/match.php
Tickets:            www.ticketflap.com/gfihkfc10s2018
Times:              Wed, April 4: 9.30am-8.30pm; Thu, April 5: 9.00am-7.30pm
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