Late on Friday afternoon, All Blacks coach Ian Foster revealed the eligibility criteria for the now confirmed North Island v South Island exhibition match.
The game, which is currently scheduled to be played on August 29th, will effectively act as a trial for the All Blacks squad – which Foster also revealed could be named the morning following the clash.
Fans and pundits have speculated for months what the best criteria would be for deciding a player’s eligibility. In Australia’s State of Origin series, which is the best modern-day comparison, players must have resided in their state prior to when they turned 13 – or have had a father play for their state.
Most suggestions out of New Zealand were that your eligible island should be based on where you were schooled – though there’s always been plenty of debate surrounding whether your junior or senior years of high school should be used as the measuring stick.
That’s not what New Zealand Rugby have decided, however, at least according to Foster’s comments.
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If NZ's North v South eligibility is based on where players played their first game of senior club footy, as anticipated, you can expect the squads to look something like this… #rugby #rugbygram #superrugby#allblacks #northvsouth #bluesrugby #chiefsmana #hurricanesrugby #crusadersrugby #highlandersrugby #nzrugby
“We think the best legacy thing for us to do is to pick players probably on the first province they played for because the choice they made when they played first-class rugby for that province was probably the start of their move into the professional game. So, we think that’s the best criteria,” Foster said.
Prior to the announcement, a number of senior Super Rugby player had given their take on their own eligibility.
Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall, who was schooled at St Peter’s College in Auckland and plays his club and provincial rugby on the North Shore, indicated that he’d prefer to represent the island where he plays his Super Rugby.
“I’d probably actually put my hand up for the South team, if I’m being honest,” Hall told RugbyPass.
“For me, if they kept those rules for what they did last time, I’d presume I’d be in the South team. I’ve kind of got both feet in both camps, really, so it wouldn’t really bother me either way.”
Hall is referring to the most recently contested North v South match which took place in 2012. Players were selected based on their Super Rugby allegiances at the time which meant that Robbie Robinson, who’d played all his rugby in the South Island prior to that season, wore the black strip of the North Island due to being contracted to the Chiefs.
“How I see it working is that it’s linked to your school and I’d see myself as a South man,” Lienert-Brown revealed to RugbyPass. “One of the reasons why is because I’d love to have that feeling of representing my school and that’s where, I guess, South really feels right to me.
“It’s the opportunity to represent my school and I guess the people I grew up with and all my family down there.”
“That was just the thing to do – you play your rugby down there, you stick down there, and then they may bring other players in.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 11, 2020
Lienert-Brown was brought north to the Chiefs by Wayne Smith, who’d flown down to watch the centre play for Christchurch Boys’ High School against Christ’s College – who also had Damian McKenzie on their ledger.
Like his Chiefs teammate, McKenzie also wouldn’t mind representing the South Island.
“I obviously played my first club rugby up in Hamilton [which will likely make McKenzie a North Islander for the contest]. I obviously grew up in the South Island so if I was going to put it out there, probably [choose to play for] the South Island, where my roots are,” McKenzie said.
The Invercargill man wouldn’t be too disappointed wherever he played, however, and quickly added that he’s a big fan of his new home.
“Look, if I get to play in it, it’d be nice. Wherever it is, wait and see. Hopefully, that’s not too controversial, [picking] the South Island. North Island’s a great place, love Waikato.”
Jack Goodhue, like Hall, played his schoolboy rugby in Auckland, representing Mount Albert Grammar School alongside his twin brother Josh. While Goodhue is now a Crusader through-and-through, he’s not too fussed about selection.
“I don’t even know if I want to make that decision,” Goodhue said to RugbyPass. “Man, I think about that opportunity to play with some guys in the North Island that I haven’t played with before… But then to go back and play with the Crusader boys and Highlander boys. I mean, I think it’s going to be two very good teams. It’s all good either way.”
Despite the fact that Goodhue now plays his rugby for his home province of Northland now, he played three seasons for Canterbury when he first moved down to Christchurch. That would make him South Island-qualified – which would see him squaring off against brother Josh.
It’s the same situation for Lienert-Brown, who would play on the opposite of the field to older brother Dan, who’s played all his provincial rugby for Canterbury.
“I just didn’t have that same attachment to the Blues.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 7, 2020
While the men’s North v South fixture has been all but officially confirmed by Foster, there’s also a chance that a women’s version of the match would take place.
Black Ferns star Kendra Cocksedge is in two minds about her allegiance, having been raised in Taranaki but played all of her senior career for Canterbury.
“It’s a tough one because I would love to play for the North but Canterbury’s been where it’s been for me,” Cocksedge told RugbyPass. “I’ve played here the last 13 years, and I think it’d be rude for me to turn my back and go and play in the north.
“I reckon I’d literally have to flip a coin and see what happens.”
Perhaps Cocksedge could play for the North Island in the first half of the match, to represent her roots, then swap sides at half-time?
“Yes, that’d be great because our jerseys at halftime just go from red and black to yellow and black,” Cocksedge said, referring to the strips of Canterbury and Taranaki.
“Yes, I think just with what Canterbury’s done… I’d love to play in the north and I’d also love to play in the south, I guess, so it’d literally be a flip of the coin.”
There’s been some speculation that the eligibility criteria for the match has been used to keep the two teams on a fairly even keel and to make the game more of an All Blacks trial. Whatever the case, the battle on August 29th will have every player giving their all for their designated team – regardless of where they originally saw their allegiance falling.
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