Established All Blacks, fringe players and in-form talent have all been included in the squads for the upcoming North versus South rugby match.
After weeks of debate, on Tuesday the All Blacks selectors named the teams for the revival of the once-regular inter-island fixture.
Sam Whitelock will captain the South Island side, with Blues skipper Patrick Tuipulotu to lead the North for what is a throwback for many Kiwi rugby fans.
The match was highly anticipated during the sport’s amateur days, only world wars preventing it from being played every year between 1905 and 1986.
Tuipulotu said the current crop are excited to add to the history.
“For us to experience that sort of rivalry, I know we obviously experience it with the Blues and Crusaders all the time, but it will be good to get stuck in and experience something new.”
Tuipulotu and Whitelock would take charge of 28-man squads littered with regular All Blacks.
But All Blacks coach Ian Foster said the match also provided opportunity to some who might not otherwise have got it.
“Having this game has forced us to go down much deeper in terms of our watching.
“So not just for potentially the 35 that we’re going to pick but to go another 20 or 30 deeper and make sure we’re really clear about the talent coming through.
“It’s rewarded a whole lot of different ranges of players”
The match offered some mouth-watering match-ups, none more so than the battle between respective first-fives Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga.
But All Blacks selector Grant Fox was reinforcing the game wasn’t the be-all and end-all when it came to selecting the next New Zealand squad.
“I don’t want to downplay this game but we’ve had 10 weeks of Super Rugby Aotearoa to judge players on, too.
“This is just another game in that process. It’s not gonna be absolutely defining for everyone in this group.”
With the squads selected, the next job was confirming where the match would be played.
Auckland was scheduled to host but, if the city stayed in Covid alert level three beyond next Wednesday, Wellington would step in.