There are few more compelling spectacles in either code of rugby than the State of Origin in Australia, something which Union has tapped somewhat into with the North vs South trial match that took place in New Zealand on Saturday.

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Although it wasn’t played at the same intensity as the notoriously fiery State of Origin, the All Blacks trial match displayed phenomenal levels of skill and has tickled the rugby world’s fancy at a time when the international rugby calendar has been decimated and the return of club rugby has been impacted by short turnarounds, heavy rotation and new law amendments.

The concept of a North vs South trial match in England would struggle due to the heavy concentration of professional clubs in the southern half of the country, though that doesn’t mean potential State of Origin-esque fixtures couldn’t work. Prior to professionalism, rugby in England had an established history of regional competition based around the designations of London & South-East, West Country, Midlands and North.

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We have split the current pool of players in the Gallagher Premiership up into the respective regions that they came through at the junior academy level or, should they not have come through a Premiership junior academy, whichever Premiership club they first joined as a professional rugby player.

London & SE

15. Elliot Daly

14. Anthony Watson

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13. Jonathan Joseph

12. Owen Farrell

11. Joe Cokanasiga

10. Marcus Smith

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9. Ben Spencer

1. Joe Marler

2. Jamie George

3. Kyle Sinckler

4. Maro Itoje

5. George Kruis

6. Nick Isiekwe

7. Ben Earl

8. Billy Vunipola

There is an abundance of talent to pick from in this populous region that not only boasts three Premiership clubs – four if counting players from London Wasps before the move to Coventry – but also a wealth of high-level rugby-playing independent schools. Understandably, Saracens’ recent domestic and European dominance shows up in the composite side.

With the Berkshire pair of Jack and Tom Willis unable to crack the final XV, as well as talents such as Nathan Earle, Joe Marchant, Joe Launchbury and veteran full-backs Mike Brown and Alex Goode missing out, there is no lack of competition in the London & SE region.

West Country

15. Jack Nowell

14. Jonny May

13. Henry Slade

12. Sam Hill

11. Ollie Thorley

10. Joe Simmonds

9. Dan Robson

1. Mako Vunipola

2. Luke Cowan-Dickie

3. Marcus Street

4. Jonny Hill

5. Charlie Ewels

6. Zach Mercer

7. Sam Underhill

8. Sam Simmonds

Another rugby stronghold, the west comprises Exeter Chiefs, Bristol Bears, Gloucester and Bath, with the four clubs enjoying rare dominance over football in their respective cities and surrounding areas. Like London & SE, the West Country does not lack for productive rugby nurseries and that is reflected in the amount of players in the country’s elite player pool that hail from the region.

Any XV that can leave out Ellis Genge has to be quite the group, whilst Jack Maunder is knocking repeatedly on the door behind Dan Robson. Emerging back rower Richard Capstick will push for his inclusion soon and Tom Dunn is hard done by as he has to compete with incumbent England deputy Luke Cowan-Dickie.

Midlands

15. George Furbank

14. Ollie Sleightholme

13. Manu Tuilagi

12. Billy Twelvetrees

11. Alex Lewington

10. George Ford

9. Ben Youngs

1. Alex Waller

2. Alfie Barbeary

3. Dan Cole

4. Courtney Lawes

5. Alex Moon

6. Ted Hill

7. Will Evans

8. Lewis Ludlam

On paper, the Midlands squad should be competitive with the two previous regions, with players coming out of the professional academies at Worcester Warriors, Wasps, Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers. That said, it is a heavy a mix of younger players with potential and experienced Premiership performers, without necessarily the international recognition that London & SE and the West Country both have.

Moon, Barbeary, Evans and Sleightholme embody the youth element to the XV, whilst few players have exhibited the durability and consistency in the Premiership that both Waller and Twelvetrees have. The squad leans heavily on Leicester academy products, though that could change in the coming years with a number of Northampton products beginning to knock on the door of club and country.

North

15. Simon Hammersley

14. Zach Kibirige

13. Sam James

12. Mark Atkinson

11. Josh Hodge

10. Toby Flood

9. Danny Care

1. Ross Harrison

2. Tommy Taylor

3. Kieran Brookes

4. James Gaskell

5. Josh Beaumont

6. Tom Curry

7. Ben Curry

8. Mark Wilson

With Leeds Tykes having fallen away and Newcastle Falcons facing their fair share of challenges in recent seasons, the North XV is understandably a little understrength in comparison to its three rivals. Sale Sharks’ contingent has also been impacted by Mike Haley and Will Addison both opting to represent Ireland in recent years.

Youngsters such as Tom Curtis and Will Haydon-Wood could push Flood out of the mix in the coming years, whilst Sale will be hoping that their South African influx doesn’t prevent their talented academy crops from taking the next step.

Outcome?

It’s hard to look beyond the London & SE side, who boast almost an entire XV of England capped players, with plenty of depth and competition that would make up an enviable set of replacements. Opting for Danny Cipriani at fly-half over Smith would ensure an all-capped XV, too.

The biggest challenge would likely come from the West Country, with the core of the squad making up the foundation of the successful Exeter side in recent seasons. If the tight five can hold up against the formidable London & SE group, the West Country would have every chance of pulling off an upset.

The Midlands group could give both London & SE and West Country a run for their money on their day, though they lack for the quality throughout the squad of their more southernly rivals. As for the North side, it does not lack individual talent, but to compete at the international level with the more stacked sides on offer elsewhere would be a challenge.

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