Maori All Blacks looking to their own game

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Lynn McConnell     02 Nov 2017     Getty Images

It's a case of both sides having new leadership with Maoris coach Clayton McMillan taking on the role for his first game.

But a new coach for Canada meant it was a case of almost bypassing the available footage on the home side in order to focus on their own game.

"So long as we prepare for a number of scenarios we should be okay," he said.

McMillan said they had enjoyed a warm welcome in Canada and when attending an ice hockey game on Wednesday evening they met several people who were well aware of Friday's game.

"I'm pretty happy with the way that we've prepared. It obviously helped that we had the majority of the squad together when we assembled in Auckland. There wasn't too many coming out of the finals series so that helped then whilst we've been here we've had a couple of really productive trainings so we're happy with how things are ticking along at the moment," he said.

While there were eight new caps named in the match 23 he said it wasn't as green as it sounded.

"There's obviously a few coming off the bench who haven't played for the Maori team before but we've actually plumped for the most experienced team we can put out there and we're really comfortable with the team that's been selected and we've got high expectations of a good performance," McMillan said.

All the players in the party deserved the chance to represent the Maori All Blacks and while there might be some who lack experience they more than made up for it with enthusiasm and he was happy with the way the team has bonded.

In naming Charlie Ngatai at fullback it was a reflection of the selection option of versatility in the squad because they were only able to take 27 players on tour.

They had talked with Colin Cooper about Ngatai's involvement at Taranaki and he had some experience in the role and had a big boot and was a good communicator which was important for the younger players in the backline.

McMillan said he had been impressed with the contribution lock Jarrad Hoeata had made to the side, a team he was passionate about, and that had flowed through the team.

While he was paired with Jackson Hemopo it wasn't a case of him guiding the less experienced lock. Hemopo had shown in Super Rugby and Mitre 10 Cup what he was capable of and he was able to stand on his own two feet, he said.

The Canadians offered an interesting test for the side, playing at home in a stadium with a roof and on astroturf so he was expecting a fast game with plenty of physicality.

"Traditionally they're a very big pack and strong carrying backs so we expect a tough battle," he said.

It wasn't worth looking at the history between the sides as a lead-in. Rather it was a case of remembering the legacy and mana of the Maoris' jersey and moving it forward, he said.

The game was expected to be watched by 29,000 people, a record for a game in Canada and McMillan said that was nice, especially for the Maori All Black brand and to have that many people watch an emerging sport in a country where it is competing with other sports would ensure it would be a memorable occasion for anyone involved.