Bay of Plenty Steamers coach Clayton McMillan is getting ready to lead a Bay of Plenty-dominant squad at the prestigious Hong Kong 10s tournament.
The GFI HKFC 10s, which started in 1986 as a celebration of the Hong Kong Football Club's centenary, has long attracted rugby's top players including seven All Blacks who were part of the winning 2015 Rugby World Cup squad – Conrad Smith, Jerome Kaino (both 2003), Ben Smith, Charlie Faumuina (both 2008), Beauden Barrett, Sam Cane (both 2010) and Nehe Milner-Skudder (2013).
McMillan, also the Maori All Blacks coach, will manage a squad under the Samurai International umbrella at the 34th tournament on April 3-4.
As head coach of Bay of Plenty in the Mitre 10 Cup league, McMillan has included many of his Steamers players in the Samurai squad to play the 'World's Best 10s'.
"It's a pretty interesting format of the game, it's obviously a hybrid between sevens and 15s but probably more leans towards a 15s side than the sevens," McMillan said.
This year's provisional Samurai squad includes Bay of Plenty first five-eighths Jason Robertson, who will be aiming to win the GFI HKFC 10s for a second successive year but with a different side, after helping Biarritz Gavekal retain the Bill Burgess Cup last year, as well as fellow Bay representatives Kane Leaupepe and Zane Kapeli. Wellington hooker James O'Reilly, a Hurricanes regular last year, and Wellington No 8 Teariki Ben-Nicholas are among the non-Steamers.
"Samurai has traditionally taken a team up for a number of years and they just knocked on the door and said 'hey look would you be interested in taking a team to represent Samurai?', and obviously the team's going to be mostly selected from Bay of Plenty players or others from around New Zealand to fill a few gaps, so it should be a highly competitive squad," McMillan said.
The invitational side will bid to win the Bill Burgess Cup for the first time, having reached the final in 2010, 2013 and 2016.
"I want to take a couple of experienced players along to, I guess, demonstrate the pathway forward for aspiring young pro rugby players. But it's a great opportunity to, you know, give a couple of young guys their first overseas experience and hopefully it's a positive one."
McMillan said the tournament was "a pretty fairly prestigious 10s tournament", which preceeded the HSBC World Rugby Hong Kong Sevens tournament on April 5-7.
"It's a tough sort of couple of days on the field and then exciting times off it," McMillan said.
He said what made the tournament so prestigious was the calibre of players involved.
"The quality of the teams just get better and better and it's that good that it's bloody hard to get in there."
Samurai last fielded a Kiwi-dominated squad at the GFI HKFC 10s in 2010 when they had Sam Cane, the Bay of Plenty and Chiefs stalwart who has won 60 caps for the All Blacks. Last year, Samurai won the second-tier Plate with an all-Fijian side led by sevens legend Nasoni Roko.
"We hope to have a couple more Sam Canes in this year's squad," said Samurai founder Terry Sands.
As fifth seeds, Samurai are in Pool D with fourth seeds Mourant Fiji Army, twelfth seeded Hunter and Boo East Africans, a 13th seeded Tiger Rugby. Biarritz Gavekal are again top seeds as they bid for a third successive Cup title.