Two-time world cup winning centre Conrad Smith headlines a Section Paloise (Pau) Brisbane Global Rugby Tens squad.
The Pau squad features seven former All Blacks plus former Wallabies captain Ben Mowen, former England flanker Steffon Armitage and Fijian winger Watisone Votu.
The star-studded line-up includes former All Blacks playmakers Colin Slade and Tom Taylor, as well as former Blues fliers Benson Stanley and Frank Halai and cult figure Highlanders prop Jamie Mackintosh.
The identity of the seventh former All Black in the team – who is set to fill the wildcard spot in the squad – will be revealed in coming days.
Section Paloise coach Simon Mannix, another former All Black, said the club was out to make its mark on the international stage.
“The direction of the club is very ambitious,” Mannix said. “Our club has come a long way in the last three-and-a-half years, establishing a strong foothold. Now we want to show that we can be competitive not only in the Top 14 but in Europe – and get that exposure internationally.”
Mannix said the club’s strong contingent of Southern Hemisphere players were excited by the prospect of playing Down Under again.
“It’s an incredible opportunity,” Mannix said. “Nobody ever forgets where they come from – where they were formed as rugby players, what their influences were.
“For the likes of Conrad Smith, Tom Taylor, Frank Halai, Benson Stanley and Jamie Mackintosh, these guys have such tremendous pride as New Zealanders and in New Zealand rugby. To pit themselves against [Super Rugby players] now, they are really excited about the challenge.
“And for the French boys it is a bit of a dream to line up against these Super Rugby franchises.”
The tournament is a great chance for players who have plied their trade overseas to reconnect with their home town fans, Mannix said.
“It is great for guys who have obviously played a lot of rugby in the southern hemisphere to get a final opportunity to do so again.”
That was particularly the case with Smith – a veteran of 94 tests for the All Blacks and 126 games for the Hurricanes – who is likely playing in the Southern Hemisphere for the final time.
“This is potentially the last six months of his rugby career,” Mannix said. “It’s a great opportunity for all of these boys to reconnect with where it all started.”
The 2018 Brisbane Global Rugby Tens takes place on Friday February 9 and Saturday February 10 at Suncorp Stadium.
The Brisbane Global Rugby Tens is supported by the Queensland Government through Tourism and Events Queensland and Brisbane City Council through Brisbane Marketing.
Section Paloise Brisbane Global Rugby Tens squad:
Conrad Smith, Colin Slade, Ben Mowen, Steffon Armitage, Thomas Taylor, Lourens Adriaanse, Frank Halai, Jamie Mackintosh, Ignacio Calles, Lucas Rey Quentin Lespiauq, Jeremy Hurou, Daniel Ramsay, Giovanni Habel Kuffner, Pierrick Gunther, Baptiste Pesenti, Martin Puech, Thibault Daubagna, Clovis Lebail, Bastien Pourailly, Brandon Fajardo, Mathias Colombet, Watisoni Votu, Florian Nicot
Blues spin it to win it in Tens final
An all-or-nothing surge from George Moala snatched victory for the Blues in the last minute of the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens final.
Aussies chasing NZ tails on finals day
Just like Super Rugby, the Kiwi teams are setting the pace in Tens rugby.
Veterans hunt young prey in Global Tens pool games
Carlos Spencer was among the winners in the early rounds of the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens
New jersey springs new hope for Kuridrani
Once a Red, Chris Kuridrani wants to follow his brother Nemani Nadolo into the Fijian Test side