Carter ready for Hong Kong showpiece
Dan Carter has played in Hong Kong twice before, but always with the All Blacks, and on Saturday evening (NZT) it will be with his French club Racing 92 in a game against the Highlanders for the Natixis Cup.
With the French Top 14 on a break due to the start of the Six Nations, the non-internationals will make up the Racing side for the game, although Carter was unaware if he was in the starting XV.
"I'm keen to play. Just when I thought I'd finished playing against the New Zealand franchises, this game came about," he told the South China Morning Post.
"It's a great chance to integrate northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere rugby and we're looking forward to seeing exactly where we're at compared to last year's defending champions."
Carter hoped the game would also boost rugby among Hong Kong's youth.
"It's obviously a part of the world that junior rugby is growing so the chance to get a game here like this one is good. It's always good to see new fans from different parts of the world," he said.
Racing 92 co-coach Laurent Travers said they were looking to maintain the form they had shown in their home competitions, although they were aware the Highlanders had not played since their Super Rugby triumph in last year's final.
"We expect it to be a very tough match. We all know the Highlanders play with a lot of strength and a lot of speed, so we expect a tough show," he said.
Another New Zealander delighted with the chance to take part was former All Blacks wing Joe Rokocoko. He first played in Hong Kong in 2002 in his second tournament with the All Blacks Sevens side.
"Every time I just think of Hong Kong as that rugby spirit, of that carnival feeling of everyone enjoying it, in the grandstands and on the field as well.
"Hopefully, whoever comes over can enjoy a bit of a spectacle from both of these teams," he said.
The game will be refereed by former New Zealander Tim Baker, who moved to Hong Kong to work as the country's senior referee development officer. It was after refereeing a Test last year, his first, between South Korea and Japan that former Japan coach Eddie Jones rated him the No.1 referee in Asia.
Baker said he was keen to showcase the opportunities for Hong Kong referees, especially with the Japan side, the Sunwolves, entering the Super Rugby competition.
Baker has been named one of the referees for the World Rugby Under-20 tournament in Zimbabwe in April.