Asia-Pacific tournament cuts scope of season

Ryan Martin
Ryan Martin
After all the angst and head-shaking over players departing to play in Singapore this season, their season looks to be extremely limited and they could be back in Dunedin by early May.

The team the players have been sent to was set to play in a six-month competition, but will now play just four games inside four weeks.

The Global Rapid Rugby competition was launched to much fanfare late last year - the brainchild of Western Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest.

He announced an eight-team competition, with teams coming from Asia, the Pacific Islands, and Western Australia in the shape of the Force. It was to have started in February and run through to June.

Forrest was incensed when the Western Force was kicked out of Super Rugby in 2017, and vowed to launch his own competition and keep the sport alive in Perth and its surrounds.

But as time went on and deadlines were missed, the competition appeared to be in doubt.

The organisers of the competition then announced in late January that because of logistical issues and timing, the full competition would not be played until 2020.

Instead a series of invitation games, known as a showcase, will take place over the next few months, including a game in New Zealand.

The Asia Pacific Dragons is the team based in Singapore, and is coached by Otago assistant coach Ryan Martin and former Otago and Highlanders loose forward Hale T-Pole.

The Dragons have attracted six players who have Otago connections. Halfbacks Kurt Hammer and Melani Matavao have joined, as has hooker Sekonaia Pole, loose forward Naulia Dawai and lock Joketani Koroi. Young Dunedin outside back Zac Harrison-Jones is also a member of the Dragons.

Initially there were suggestions more players from Otago would join the move to the Singaporean team, leading to fears of a loss of many players capable of playing in Otago.

But only six players from Dunedin ended up travelling overseas.

Of those, Dawai and Matavao were not intending to return to Otago, while Harrison-Jones was not contracted to Otago. The other three are believed to be eyeing a return to play in the Dunedin club competition.

Martin is also expected to come back to Dunedin and is keen to once again be involved in coaching the Otago Mitre 10 Cup team.

The showcase series schedule has now been announced and will have games in three different continents.

It will all kick off next Friday night in Perth when the Western Force will take on a World XV, coached by former Crusaders and Wallabies coach Robbie Deans.

The Dragons are scheduled to play two games at home in Singapore, a match in Perth and a game in Hong Kong. The side is scheduled to take on the Western Force in Perth on April 12, followed by a match in Hong Kong against the South China Tigers.

It then returns home to play the Tigers on April 28 and finishes its season with a match against the Western Force, on May 5.

The Western Force has 10 games to play over the coming months.

One game is scheduled to be played in New Zealand.

The match, between a Samoan side and a Fijian team, will be played at Pukekohe on June 7.

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