Chiefs dedicate Global 10s win to Lauaki
ALL Blacks great Dan Carter and his French club are the top targets to add a fresh lashing of starpower to next year's edition of the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens.
Plans to build on the success of the 28-game festival were being hatched even before Sunday's tense climax at Suncorp Stadium produced an emotional triumph for New Zealand's Chiefs.
The Chiefs locked arms for a minute's silence before their first game to honour former All Black Sione Lauaki, the powerful figure from Chiefs history who died suddenly on Sunday morning in Auckland at 35.
Non-stop Chiefs leader Liam Messam and his team still had Lauaki in their hearts eight hours and four sapping games later in brutal heat that reached 40 degrees on field at its peak.
"Really tough ... this one is for you my brother," Messam said of his former backrow teammate when he raised the trophy after an all-Kiwi, 12-5 win over the Crusaders in the final.
Later, an emotional Messam explained how close he was to missing Sunday's play.
"I was trying to get the first plane back with Jerome Kaino. We know what 'Wax' (Lauaki) would have wanted and he'd probably tell me to stop crying. The boys really wanted to do it for him," Messam said.
Added coach Dave Rennie: "It was a shocking start to the day, a hell of a lot of emotion.
"Hunga (Messam) decided he wanted to stay and play for Wax and I thought he was sensational. The way the team honoured Sione, was pretty special."
New events grow a life of their own and so did the Tens.
Halfback Brad Weber joined the Chiefs celebrations with a fist pump from a wheelchair after his final was ended with a damaged knee while teammate Graham Mitchell dabbed to the crowd while horizontal on the medi-cab that stretchered him off with a broken left leg.
The victory was nothing about the $100,000 winners' cheque but a wonderful Kiwi tribute to a fallen comrade by leaving everything out on the field.
The success of the tournament derived much from the five visiting Kiwi sides thrilling their devoted ex-pat fans in the stands plus the four invited teams from Japan (Wild Knights), South Africa (Bulls), Samoa and France (Toulon).
Event organiser Rachael Carroll revealed discussions had been held with Carter's Paris club Racing Metro even before this tournament.
"We have the five core Australian and New Zealand sides but the chance to grow and change every year with our invitations to international sides," Carroll said.
"We are absolutely looking outside the box and we did have discussions with Racing before this tournament because having a Dan Carter at this tournament would be thrilling."
No Kiwi side utilised the wildcard option as the Aussie sides did so there is even the chance of World Cup-winner Carter, at 35, joining up with the Crusaders for this one weekend of the year.
Carter is reportedly on a massive $1.5 million-plus per year contract at Racing where he is still a force in the French Top 14.
Tournaments like this always flush out new talents and Chiefs back Shaun Stevenson, 20, was all class with the stepping run to set up the winning try in the final after being ignored as an inside support earlier.
No Australian side reached the semi-finals where, unsurprisingly, three Kiwi teams showed their passing, off-loading, rapid support play and intensity was a level above again.
The Queensland Reds dumped the fancied Samoans from the tournament and were down to eight men when pipped by the Chiefs in a tight quarter-final.
The ACT Brumbies were stiff to not advance to the quarter-finals after two wins in pool play, the Melbourne Rebels would have advanced if halfback Ben Meehan had not dropped the ball in a late lunge for the tryline against the NSW Waratahs and the Western Force can feel pleased with a quarters effort.
The Kiwis were strong supporters of the event but the debrief is sure to assess that four physical games on the second day is pushing the limits because of the two big injuries in the final and the Hurricanes losing classy lock Vaea Fifita with a broken leg in the semi-finals.
Unfortunately, an ankle injury nobbled Toulon ace James O'Connor who wasn't able to play a minute.