New Zealand Rugby have today announced the squads for the upcoming North versus South match, with Patrick Tuipulotu and Sam Whitelock named as captains for the respective sides.
The 28-man squads were picked by All Blacks selectors, led by new head coach Ian Foster, with the game acting as something of a glorified selection trial ahead of any Test matches played later in the year.
Beauden Barrett has been named as the only first-five for the North, setting up a tantalising battle with Crusaders counterpart Richie Mo’unga and also pitting him against brother Jordie, who has been picked for the South.
The younger Barrett is one of just three outside backs in the South squad, so is almost certain to line-up at fullback with George Bridge and Will Jordan alongside him on the wings.
The second-row selections highlight the current relative lack of depth in New Zealand in the position with Brodie Retallick out of the selection frame, with just three locks named for both sides.
However the back-row battle is tantalising, with Crusaders Tom Christie and Tom Sanders joined by Highlanders Shannon Frizell and Dillon Hunt and Hurricane Reed Prinsep in the South squad, while the North boast an imposing collection of loose forwards in Lachlan Boshier, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea and Hoskins Sotutu.
New All Blacks captain Sam Cane was unavailable for selection having been knocked out in the Chiefs’ last match of their dismal Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign, while fellow international teammates Dane Coles, Scott Barrett and Ngani Laumape were also not considered due to injury, as was Pari Pari Parkinson.
With an outbreak of COVID-19 appearing in Auckland after the country went over 100 days without any cases of community transmission, it is likely the match will be played without fans, and a shift from Eden Park to Wellington’s Sky Stadium is also being looked at.
The venue will be confirmed after the New Zealand government reviews their COVID levels this Friday. The match itself is scheduled for Saturday, August 29.
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 (c) (Auckland) 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-fives: Beauden Barrett (Taranaki)
Centres: 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 (c) (Canterbury)
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-fives: Josh Ioane (Otago) and Richie Mo’unga (Canterbury)
Centres: 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)