Controversial team with Otago links to take the field

Taieri and Otago halfback Kurt Hammer. Photo: ODT files
Taieri and Otago halfback Kurt Hammer. Photo: ODT files
The side which has been part of a rigorous debate in Otago rugby over the past few months will finally get out on the field tonight.

The Asia Pacific Dragons will take on the Western Force in Perth tonight as part of the Global Rapid Rugby series.

The Dragons were set to play in a six month long Global Rapid Rugby tournament but this has been scaled back to just a series of matches.

The Dragons, which are based in Singapore, are coached by former Otago Boys' High School First XV coach Ryan Martin, with former Otago coach Lee Allan as his assistant.

Martin moved to the job at the end of last year and has recruited some Otago players. There are seven with Otago links in the Dragons side which will play the Force tonight.

In the starting line-up are hooker Sekonaia Pole, lock Joketani Koroi, loose forward Naulia Dawai, halfback Kurt Hammer and winger Mitchell Scott - all players who turned out for Otago last season.

All were part of the blue and golds which won the Ranfurly Shield off Waikato last year.

Dunedin outside back Zac Harrison-Jones, who has not played for Otago, is named in the reserves for the Dragons.

Otago prop Hisa Sasagi was set to play for the Dragons but he injured his leg last Saturday in a club game and has not joined the team.

Also included in the side is former Otago Boy's High School forward Mike McKee. McKee, who was coached by Martin at school, played for Southland and then turned out for Counties-Manukau last year in the Mitre 10 Cup. He is set to play on the blindside flank tonight with Dawai at No 8.

The players heading off to the Dragons had caused plenty of debate in Otago rugby circles, with clubs concerned players would not play club rugby and then would come back and play for Otago, devaluing the club competition.

At last month's Otago Rugby Football Union annual meeting, the board committed to setting guiding principles around the issue.


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