Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett will get the chance to face off at fly-half for the first time this season after the star All Blacks duo were named in the South Island and North Island squads respectively.
The two 28-man squads were unveiled on Tuesday afternoon [NZT], giving both teams 10 days’ preparation for the one-off match that will be played at either Auckland’s Eden Park or Wellington’s Sky Stadium on Aug. 28, pending advice from the New Zealand Government following the country’s coronavirus outbreak last week.
The selection of Barrett as the North’s only fly-half means he will at last have the chance to go head-to-head with Mo’unga, providing the Crusaders star is selected ahead of Josh Ioane, after last week’s Blues-Crusaders match was cancelled and their earlier Super Rugby Aotearoa clash in Christchurch had seen Barrett playing at fullback.
Elsewhere, there will be a number of intriguing positional battles that will carry All Blacks ramifications with players getting one final chance to impress coach Ian Foster and his fellow Test selectors.
“This is a chance for these players to be part of something really special,” Foster said. “It’s a once-in-a-generation match for them and players who have previously taken part in these matches have talked about how unique and memorable it was. Now these two teams get to write their own history and stories around this match.
“The match will bring out the best in everyone and I’m sure there will be parochial rivalry in spades. It’s a special game because it celebrates where the players made their provincial debuts and, for some, where they really took those first steps in their professional careers.
“The players have worked really hard and played some outstanding rugby in Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa, and we’re excited at the breadth of talent up and down the country. There’s a huge amount of talent here and it will be a wonderful celebration of rugby for our fans.”
The match could see the return of impressive Blues No. 8 Hoskins Sotutu after he missed the backend of Super Rugby Aotearoa through injury, while Jordie Barrett’s selection among the South’s outside back contingent means he will line up against his brother for the second time this year.
Eligibility for the North vs. South match was determined by the region where the player first made their provincial debut, meaning Jordie Barrett was tied to Canterbury and brother Beauden having first played for Taranaki.
Veteran Test lock Sam Whitelock will captain the South while likely All Blacks second-row partner and in-form Blues forward Patrick Tuipulotu will lead the North.
New All Blacks captain Sam Cane and fellow Test teammates Dane Coles, Scott Barrett and Ngani Laumape were not considered due to injury.
This will be New Zealand’s first North vs. South match since 2012 when the South triumphed 32-24. The 2020 match will be the 81st match with the Northerners having won 50 matches and the South 27, with three draws.
Hookers: Asafo Aumua (Wellington), Ash Dixon (Hawke’s Bay) and Kurt Eklund (Auckland). Props: Alex Fidow (Wellington), Ayden Johnstone (Waikato), Angus Ta’avao (Auckland), Karl Tu’inukuafe (North Harbour) and Ofa Tuungafasi (Auckland). Locks: Scott Scrafton (Auckland), Patrick Tuipulotu (Auckland and captain) and Tupou Vaa’i (Taranaki). Loose forwards: Lachlan Boshier (Taranaki), Akira Ioane (Auckland), Dalton Papalii (Auckland), Ardie Savea (Wellington) and Hoskins Sotutu (Auckland). Halfbacks: TJ Perenara (Wellington), Aaron Smith (Manawatu) and Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (Taranaki). First five-eighths: Beauden Barrett (Taranaki). Midfielders: Rieko Ioane (Auckland), Anton Lienert-Brown (Waikato) and Peter Umaga-Jensen (Wellington). Outside backs: Caleb Clarke (Auckland), Mitchell Hunt (Auckland), Damian McKenzie (Waikato), Sevu Reece (Waikato) and Mark Telea (North Harbour).
Hookers: Liam Coltman (Otago), Andrew Makalio (Tasman) and Codie Taylor (Canterbury). Props: George Bower (Otago), Alex Hodgman (Canterbury), Nepo Laulala (Canterbury), Tyrel Lomax (Tasman) and Joe Moody (Canterbury). Locks: Mitchell Dunshea (Canterbury), Manaaki Selby-Rickit (Southland) and Samuel Whitelock (Canterbury and captain). Loose forwards: Tom Christie (Canterbury), Shannon Frizell (Tasman), Dillon Hunt (Otago), Reed Prinsep (Canterbury) and Tom Sanders (Canterbury). Halfbacks: Finlay Christie (Tasman), Mitchell Drummond (Canterbury) and Brad Weber (Otago). First five-eighths: Josh Ioane (Otago) and Richie Mo’unga (Canterbury). Midfielders: Braydon Ennor (Canterbury), Leicester Faingaanuku (Tasman), Jack Goodhue (Canterbury) and Sio Tomkinson (Otago) Outside backs: Jordie Barrett (Canterbury), George Bridge (Canterbury) and Will Jordan (Tasman).