Brisbane Global Rugby Tens–Wildcards and Jokers ready to Entertain Fans

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Brisbane Global Rugby Tens--Wildcards and Jokers ready to Entertain Fans
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 09: Dalton Papalii of the Blues scores a try during the 2018 Global Tens match between the Blues and the Reds at Suncorp Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Today is the opening day of the 2018 Brisbane Global Rugby Tens. The all-action two-day event will show off both Wildcards and Jokers, skill, speed and preseason enthusiasm.

Players selected for the ‘winner takes all’ challenge are all ready to entertain the fans at Suncorp Stadium. They start with Day One pool play this afternoon, and then wrapping up the tournament on Saturday.

In the second year of the DUCO run tournament, the organizers have concentrated on many improvements. That means an awareness of the daytime heat issues from 2017. Play this afternoon will see the evening games pull in the after work crowd–as well as the hugely entertaining MC Nick Cummins. Brought in to engage with the crowd, the natural joker is sure to entertain this weekend.

Brisbane Global Rugby Tens–Wildcards and Jokers ready to Entertain Fans

With 12 men’s teams, and four women’s teams named, the organizers have afforded teams an option. If so wished, any of the men’s teams can invite a ‘Wildcard player’. This might be a player from outside the franchise, but it was hoped that the option would create a unique selling point.

And it certainly has for the Blues!

Coach Tana Umaga was the first to select a legend. It might be a marketing dream, but when the Blues announced that former Super Rugby champion player Carlos Spencer (42) would line-up, it had the desired effect. News media outlets have been soaking up the inclusion of the charismatic player.

And for the Blues, it could be inspirational. The ex-player who can only be described using superlatives, will only have a positive impact on the embattled Super Rugby franchise. By coming in preseason, Spencer can hope to bring a fresh spark and inject some credibility–even while using that wry smile to remind fans he is still as fit as most modern players.

Pool A – Wild Knights, Melbourne Rebels, Reds and Blues

Crusaders hold off from Wildcard choice – but still hold their Joker

Spencer’s old foe, the Crusaders have chosen not to ‘play their Wildcard’. Head coach Scott ‘Razor’ Robertson has retained much of his core group, and opted to add some players from outside the squad.

While not being a compulsory element to compete, Robertson told reporters before leaving that the timing wasn’t perfect [prior to any All Blacks being available] we’d love to have taken a squad with a little bit more depth, but it’s just the way it works”. And when asked if he might throw on his boots as a ‘wildcard’ he joked “I could have probably selected myself!! I wouldn’t have lasted too long, the knees are shot.”

Last Word on Rugby spoke with Razor in 2017 in Brisbane. He was on media duties with ‘the Honeybadger’ Nick Cummins. Even then, the two got on famously. Robertson saying on Wednesday “Yeah, had a bit of fun with the Honeybadger. It got a bit weird there for a while, I enjoyed it,” breaking into his smile. The ‘joker’ will be focused on the matches on the ground, wanting to go one better than in 2017 but is also aware that laughter is sometimes the best form of medicine.

The Crusaders go in as the favourites–holders of the Super Rugby title. While that might give only a cursory boost in confidence, the players from 2017 will surely have memories of holding aloft the trophy in South Africa.

Competition for the ‘Saders comes from the Hurricanes. Captained by Julian Savea, the ‘Bus’ will want to lead by example and to inspire his young group, as much as Spencer or Robertson might do.

Pool c – Fiji Rugby, Brumbies, Hurricanes and Crusaders

French Top14 side Pau playing their cards right in Brisbane

Bringing the southern French side Pau down to Queensland might sound like a relaxing break, but don’t tell Pau players or management. One of three International teams, that includes the Panasonic WildKnights and the Fiji selection.

Pau are using the Brisbane Global Rugby Sevens as mid-season ‘pick me up’ to be ready for the resumption of Top 14 action on February 18. The squad is very similar to the French league side, including many familiar names. One being their nominated Wildcard; Carl Hayman. The prop has trimmed down since leaving the top-tier, but is still just as formidable

The other key figure within the Pau squad, is tournament captain Conrad Smith. The two-time Rugby World Cup winner has settled well into Top14 play. Now he brings his side down to Australia, to impress the competition.

“I’ve played a lot of rugby but not a lot of Tens so the pace of the game in the heat, coming from a tough winter in France, is one thing”. Smith told the Courier Mail that his side will adjust, and will take everything they can from the weekend.

Pool B – Pau, Waratahs, Chiefs and Highlanders

Along with all the other teams, the Super Rugby sides are all trying to benefit from this weekend. Tens is much more related to the XVs game, teams and team-structure can utilize the competitive environment.

The 2017 holders will have a strong chance of retaining the title. The Chiefs; even with a new head coach, will certainly have some continuity. Liam Messam and Tim Nanai-Williams will co-captain the side, and feel they can repeat the effort at the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens.

They will need to watch out for the likes of the Waratahs, Brumbies–with their wildcard Andrew Walker–or the Fijian national side. And while the involvement of Wildcards and Jokers adds to the flavour and enjoyment, the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens is still in it’s development stage. Second year in, and the winner might well be one of six or maybe seven sides.

Either the Blues, Crusaders, or Pau have opportunity. And it will be the fans who enjoy the display. Follow the results after Day Two here with Last Word on Rugby.

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