All Blacks rivals Barrett, Mo'unga to face off in North-South clash
Veteran All Black fly-half Beauden Barrett will go head-to-head with rival Richie Mo'unga in the North v South Island match on Saturday, a fixture described as one "for the history books".
The teams named for the inter-island clash include a mixture of seasoned internationals and promising youngsters unearthed during New Zealand's recently completed Super Rugby Aotearoa competition.
The North-South rivalry, which dates back to 1897 but has been rarely played in recent years, has been revived after New Zealand's home Test schedule was thrown into disarray by the coronavirus pandemic.
It will be played behind closed doors in Wellington on Saturday after an outbreak of the virus forced changes to the original plan to stage it in Auckland on August 29.
By far the most anticipated match-up is between the North's Barrett and challenger Mo'unga, who took over as pivot in an experimental system at last year's Rugby World Cup with mixed results.
The South, captained by Sam Whitelock, is dominated by the Canterbury Crusaders, who this year added the Super Rugby Aotearoa title to their 10 Super Rugby crowns.
South coach Brad Mooar said the match had stirred intense parochial rivalries between the teams.
"The only thing missing at the stadium will be the fans and we're really disappointed we can't share the experience there with them," he said.
"We know there will be a huge audience watching at home so we hope they'll enjoy what's shaping up as match for the history books."
The North-South match was once among the most bitterly contested matches in the New Zealand rugby calendar but fell out of favour after the advent of professionalism in 1995.
As well as boosting New Zealand Rugby's depleted coffers, Saturday's game will also give All Blacks selectors a final chance to assess players before naming a squad on Sunday for the upcoming Test season.
It remains unclear whether any internationals will be played but New Zealand Rugby reportedly want to play a series against Australia from October 10, followed by the Rugby Championship from November 7-December 12.
Damian McKenzie; Sevu Reece, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Caleb Clarke; Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara; Hoskins Sotutu, Ardie Savea, Akira Ioane; Tupou Vaa'i, Patrick Tuipulotu (capt); Ofa Tuungafasi, Asafo Aumua, Karl Tu'inukuafe.
Replacements: Ash Dixon, Ayden Johnstone, Angus Ta'avao, Scott Scrafton, Dalton Papalii, Aaron Smith, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Mitchell Hunt.
Coach: John Plumtree.
Jordie Barrett; Will Jordan, Brayden Ennor, Jack Goodhue, George Bridge; Richie Mo'unga, Brad Weber; Tom Sanders, Tom Christie, Shannon Frizell; Mitchell Dunshea, Sam Whitelock (capt); Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody.
Replacements: Liam Coltman, George Bower, Tyrel Lomax, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Dillon Hunt, Finlay Christie, Josh Ioane, Leicester Faingaanuku.
Coach: Brad Mooar.
© 2020 AFP