WELLINGTON: All Blacks coach Ian Foster called next week’s revived North v South Island game a “once-in-a-generation” fixture as New Zealand Rugby unveiled strong squads on Tuesday.
Among some mouth-watering match-ups, All Blacks fly-half Beauden Barrett will face challenger Richie Mo’unga in the traditional but long defunct inter-island game.
“I can’t wait,” said Foster, who helped select the 28-man squads.
“This is a chance for these players to be part of something really special. It’s a once-in-a-generation match for them.”
The North-South match was first contested in 1897 and was once among the most anticipated and bitterly contested matches in the New Zealand rugby calendar.
It fell out of favour after the advent of professionalism in 1995, but returns this year after New Zealand’s home Test schedule was thrown into disarray by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The match is set to be played on August 29 in Auckland, or if the city remains in lockdown it will be moved to the capital Wellington.
Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock has been named captain of the South team, with Blues lock Patrick Tuipulotu skippering the North.
All Blacks captain Sam Cane was among several players unavailable through injury, including Dane Coles and Ngani Laumape.
Foster said the squads contained more than 20 uncapped players, showing the depth of talent that had emerged during the recently completed Super Rugby Aotearoa competition.
He said the North-South fixture was useful for All Blacks selectors as they consider options for any internationals that can be played later this year.
However, he was doubtful it would become an regular fixture in a virus-free environment, saying the regular rugby calendar was too congested to fit it in.
“Right now I see it as a bit of a celebration, a one-off thing,” he said.
Hookers: Asafo Aumua, Ash Dixon, Kurt Eklund.
Props: Alex Fidow, Ayden Johnstone, Angus Ta’avao, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi.
Locks: Scott Scrafton, Patrick Tuipulotu (capt), Tupou Vaa’i (Taranaki).
Loose forwards: Lachlan Boshier, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea, Hoskins Sotutu.
Halfbacks: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, and Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.
Fly-half: Beauden Barrett.
Centres: Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Peter Umaga-Jensen. Outside backs: Caleb Clarke, Mitchell Hunt, Damian McKenzie, Sevu Reece, Mark Telea.
Hookers: Liam Coltman, Andrew Makalio, Codie Taylor.
Props: George Bower, Alex Hodgman, Nepo Laulal, Tyrel Lomax, Joe Moody.
Locks: Mitchell Dunshea, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Sam Whitelock (capt).
Loose forwards: Tom Christie, Shannon Frizell, Dillon Hunt, Reed Prinsep, Tom Sanders.
Halfbacks: Finlay Christie, Mitchell Drummon, Brad Weber.
Fly-halves: Josh Ioane, Richie Mo’unga.
Centres: Braydon Ennor, Leicester Faingaanuku, Jack Goodhue, Sio Tomkinson.
Outside backs: Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Will Jordan.