Captain of the Phuket Vagabonds, Dan Ashburn, who represented English RFU Championship side Moseley before moving to Phuket, said his team was in the best shape he’d ever seen.
“I think this is going to be the strongest side we’ve ever had at the 10s competition, at least as long as I’ve been involved in the club.
“Hopefully that means we’re a chance of getting a bit further than we have in the past.”
The competition is divided into three categories – Spoon, Plate and Cup. Last year, the Vagabonds made it to the Plate finals, something which Dan is confident of replicating, and possibly improving on.
“I think the Cup final might be a bit out of our reach, as we’re competing against guys who play rugby week in week out. The Plate final is definitely a realistic goal though.”
But perhaps more important for the Vagabonds is the coveted Weasel Cup, taken home by the winner of the local derby between Phuket and the Bangkok ‘Bangers’. Dan said this year he’s feeling “confident” that the trophy will remain on the island for another year.
But rivalries aside, tournament director Pat Cotter said the aim of the weekend was as much about what happens off the pitch as on.
“The whole weekend is about fun and having a good time, and raising money for the Asia Center Foundation (ACF) Scholarship programme.”
The ACF Scholarship programme was initially set up to assist families affected by the 2004 tsunami, and has since turned its focus to helping disadvantaged students on Phuket.
Pat, who will be competing for the Phuket Viagrabonds in the Coffin Dodgers (35+) competition, is feeling a little less confident about his side’s potential than his younger counterparts.
“It just depends on the day really – we’re a very transient side so it’s hard to keep a consistent squad together.”
For Dan, the shifting nature of his team has been helped by a growing contingent of Thai players. “Over the past three years their skills have improved a lot.”
This growing skill base amongst Thai players is something which both Dan and Pat agree is one of the principle focuses of rugby on the island – developing a strong local base to allow the game to grow.
“We would love to have more players involved on a weekly basis, so we could can travel and play at tournaments across Thailand and Asia,” Dan said.
All games this weekend are being played on a full-size field at Kata Group Sports Ground in Chalong, and are divided into seven minute halves, with five forwards and five backs on the field.
For those unfamiliar with the 10s format, Dan said it requires “a lot more running as opposed to 15-a-side, and it’s very difficult in this heat... It’s a lot faster and a lot more attacking, and you have to be very fit to compete.”
Spectators are welcome for what should be a weekend of entertainment on and off the pitch. For those who can't make it, results will be updated live here.
The Coffin Dodgers Competition starts on Friday (May 25), from 10am – 6pm, with the final being played on Sunday. The Main Competition starts on Saturday (May 26) from 8am, and runs through until the finals on Sunday (May 27) afternoon. For more information and a full schedule, visit phuketrugby10s.com or contact Pat on 089-873-1190.
The Phuket Vagabonds also train every Tuesday and Thursday from 6pm at the ACG. For more information contact Dan on 085-691-7711 or Pat on 089-873-1190.