All eyes were on Brisbane’s central city Queen Street Mall this morning for the live draw of the inaugural Brisbane Global Rugby Tens tournament.
Queensland Parliament MP the Honourable Curtis Pitt and City Councilor Krista Adams drew out the 14 balls that determined the four pools for the February 11 and 12 blockbuster Suncorp Stadium event.
The tournament features all ten Australian and New Zealand Super Rugby clubs plus four invitational teams – French powerhouse Toulon, Japan’s Panasonic Wild Knights, Tama Samoa and South Africa’s Blue Bulls.
Teams were drawn into four pools – two pools of four and two pools of three. The top two teams from each pool qualify for knockout play.
With the host club St.George Queensland Reds, Auckland’s Blues, hard-hitting Tama Samoa and Super Rugby’s most successful franchise the Crusaders all drawn together, Pool B is a strong candidate for the traditional ‘pool of death’ tag.
“It doesn’t get any tougher, you’ve got the Crusaders, Samoa and the Auckland Blues, three teams that will play very physical and expansive rugby,” Reds coach Nick Stiles said.
“The good thing for us is we’ll get tested and our defence will get tested and that’s an area we’re really focussed on improving.
“You don’t get a better way to highlight Super Rugby being around the corner than having 14 of the top sides in the world here at Suncorp Stadium and in front of our fans.”
Reds star Karmichael Hunt wasn’t the least bit daunted by the draw.
“We’re really excited to be playing a couple of New Zealand teams, but also the Samoan team, I think they’ll have a lot of support in Brisbane,” Hunt said. “It’s a great lead-in to the Super season, to have all these international teams join us for the Tens competition, it’s going to be fantastic. I think Brisbane will really get behind this event and it’s going to be a great weekend for footy.”
Blues star Rene Ranger, who attended the draw along with Hurricanes prop Loni ‘The Tongan Bear’ Uhila and Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson, agreed the sleeping giants of Super Rugby would have their work cut out to qualify from pool B.
“It does look like a tough pool,” Ranger said. “The Reds will be used to the heat over here in Brisbane. Then you’ve got Samoa there – heat is no stranger to them. And then you’ve got the ‘Big Dogs’ The Crusaders. It is going to be a tough, tough pool, but in saying that it is going to be exciting.”
Uhila’s Super Rugby-champion Hurricanes appear to have a slightly easier path. Drawn in Pool D, the Hurricanes will face the Western Force and French Giants Toulon, as well as a crossover match against a team from Pool C.
“I can’t wait to play against the likes of Ma’a Nonu and them [at Toulon] – that will be good,” Uhila said. “It’s the last big test before the Super 18 starts so we are looking forward to it. I can’t wait for it to happen. It will be good fun.”
Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said his New South Wales-based team was excited about heading to what is traditionally enemy territory for the pre-season extravaganza.
“The exciting thing about the tens is you’re going to approach the game differently and it will be interesting to see the style of play the teams that are playing come up with,” Gibson said.
“Suncorp is a great place to watch rugby and I certainly think it’s going to be a wonderful spectacle.”
The draw was attended by children from local Brisbane primary schools dressed in the playing jerseys of the 14 competing teams, as well a psychic bushy-tailed possum called Riva.
Riva tipped the home town Queensland Reds to win the tournament.
Minister for Tourism and Major Events Kate Jones said the tournament would become a signature event for rugby fans the world over.
“The tournament draw marks just over two months until rugby fans from across the globe flock to the best rugby stadium in Australia to celebrate world-class rugby,” Ms Jones said.
“The Brisbane Global Rugby Tens will showcase Brisbane and Queensland to a global audience and draw visitors from around the country and the world.
“Major events like this are crucial to growing Queensland’s visitor economy and we’re proud to support the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens through Tourism and Events Queensland.”
Duco Events Chief Executive Rachael Carroll said the tournament would be a game-changer for Brisbane the rugby fans around the globe.
“Today’s draw brings us one step closer to staging one of the great annual sporting events in Australia, bringing around 300 of the best rugby players together for two days of rugby heaven,” Ms Carroll said.
“We’d like to thank our partners, Tourism and Events Queensland and Brisbane Marketing, for making this wonderful event a reality, and for their ongoing support in delivering what will be a tremendous two days of sporting entertainment at Suncorp Stadium and a whole week of fun outside the stadium’s gates.”