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3rd April 2018

Kylem O’Donnell’s back – and he’s brought his brother

The 2016 Player of the Tournament will play with brother Declan as YCAC bid to win the GFI HKFC 10s for the first time, while newcomers CCIG Tigers look to do USA Rugby proud as one of two new teams

Hong Kong; April 3, 2018: Waikato scrumhalf Kylem O’Donnell will aim to help Tradition YCAC win their first GFI HKFC 10s title two years after he co-captained the Penguins to victory and was named Player of the Tournament at Hong Kong Football Club, where he was also joint top try scorer.

The 28-year-old O’Donnell, a former All Blacks Sevens who had an injury-plagued season with Hurricanes last year, is competing in his third GFI HKFC 10s, having played for Samurai in 2011.

This year he’s joined in a strong YCAC line-up by younger brother Declan, also a former New Zealand Sevens player who moved from the Blues to the Chiefs this year. Declan, 27, is competing in the 10s for the first time, although he has watched the tournament while in Hong Kong with All Blacks Sevens.

The third seeds are bidding to win the Bill Burgess Cup in their sixth straight appearance, having reached the final in 2014 and 2015, and the Cup semi-finals three times.

Aside from the O’Donnell brothers, other former All Blacks Sevens in the squad include captain Ed Cocker, Warwick Lahmert and Sherwin Stowers, New Zealand’s fourth-highest try scorer on the World Rugby Sevens Series.

“We’re definitely good enough to win. We’ve got the quality to go all the way with this side and I’m just looking forward to getting into it. I’m really excited about being fit and healthy now, so I’m ready,” said Kylem O’Donnell, who played with his brother at Taranaki for the past two seasons before signing for Waikato.

“Declan moved to Taranaki a couple of years ago and loved the environment there and it showed in his rugby. I’m looking forward to getting on the pitch with him again. He’s still got it. He brings a bit of razzle and some size and pace as well. I’m excited to see how he goes here.”

Kylem O’Donnell helped Penguins beat YCAC in the 2016 semi-final, when the eventual champions pulled away to win 29-14, but now he’s a key player in a squad dominated by Kiwis, although Fijians Pio Tuwai and Vuga Tagicakibau are also standouts.

“There’s good camaraderie – there always is with Kiwi-based teams. It can be pretty hard to bring lots of players from different countries together, but we all pretty much play the same in New Zealand and just read off each other and know what each other’s about,” O’Donnell said.

“Some of the other teams look very sharp including Samurai with their Fijians. They have some top players. It all depends who brings it on the day.”

On Wednesday, YCAC play in Pool C against Australian youngsters King’s College sponsored by Strategic Equity Alliance, CCIG Tigers from the USA and Devil’s Own Shanghai Silver Dragons from China.

Tigers are one of two debutants this year along with England’s Sedbergh School Old Boys, but come armed with international experience.

Centres Nick Boyer and Cody Melphy have played for USA Sevens on the World Rugby Sevens Series this year, while former American Football player Sam McGuffie will also be one to watch as he plays just two months after competing in the Winter Olympics for USA’s bobsled teams.

Tiger founder James Walker, whose academy has helped produce players like Perry Baker, said the GFI HKFC 10s would be one of the tougher challenges the team has faced in the past decade.

“We’ve got a good group of guys who are excited to be here and we’re up for the challenge. We’ve got about five to six players who have been capped by the Eagles (15s) or USA Sevens, and others who are in the national programmes, so we have some quality,” said Walker, who founded Tiger Rugby – a development partner of USA Rugby – in 2007.

“We’ve played against teams like Samurai in other tournaments, but this is our first 10s tournament of this standard. We really want to see how some of the younger players stack up in this environment. I have to admit a few of our players were a bit wide eyed coming into Hong Kong and then arriving here at the venue.”

Antonio Kiri Kiri, who co-captained Penguins to victory in 2016 with Kylem O’Donnell, is one of three recent New Zealand Sevens players in the Turkish Airlines Penguins squad along with Tamati Samuels and Lewis Ormond. The 2013 and 2016 champions start in Pool B against Scotland’s Projecx Waterboys, Irish Vikings and hosts Natixis HKFC.

Defending champions UBB Gavekal, who have five Fiji Sevens players, start in Pool A against Classic Wallabies, A-Trade Overseas Old Boys and Hunter + Boo East Africans.

An all-Fijian Samurai International squad headline Pool D and will face French fifth seeds Kir Club Pyrenees, Hong Kong-based Taikoo Place Scottish Exiles and Sedbergh School Old Boys.

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)




Times:             Wed, April 4: 9.30am-8.30pm; Thu, April 5: 9.00am-7.30pm

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