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'It'd be awesome': All Blacks star calls for return of North vs South clash

By Alex McLeod

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All Blacks star Will Jordan has called for the permanent return of the annual North vs South fixture in their form of either a one-off match or a three-match series.

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The historic inter-island clash was resurrected last year for the first time since 2012 as New Zealand Rugby [NZR] was forced to think outside of the box in terms of its scheduling amid a year heavily disrupted by Covid-19.

The match, which effectively doubled as an All Blacks trial played the day before Ian Foster named his first-ever New Zealand squad, was just the second of its kind to be held in the professional era, with the other being the 2012 clash.

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Prior to that, the last time the North vs South match was played came in 1995, but the fixture had been held on a near-yearly basis between 1897 and 1986.

With such strong historical background, and the added lure of seeing New Zealand’s top players pitted against each other, plenty of hype surrounded last year’s game, which was played in front of an empty Sky Stadium in Wellington under Covid-19 restrictions.

The match – the 81st meeting between the North and the South – lived up to expectation as the South Island scored an upset 38-35 win over the North Island when Jordan latched onto a Josh Ioane cross-kick in injury time to score a dramatic match-winning try.

Given the intrigue and anticipation that was associated with the match, and the free-flowing and attacking nature in which it played out, many hoped the fixture would become a mainstay of NZR’s calendar to give rugby union its own version of rugby league’s State of Origin in Australia.

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However, the game wasn’t renewed this year as the All Blacks resumed a full year of test matches, and no indication has yet been given as to whether the clash will return in the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless, Jordan called on NZR to reinstate the fixture during an appearance on the What A Lad podcast, hosted by former Hurricanes fullback James Marshall.

The 23-year-old flyer, who this week won World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year, spoke highly of last year’s edition of the match and said he was eager for it to return annually, either as a one-off fixture or as a three-game series.

“That was just such a cool game. If they can find any way to get that game, or even a wee series, into the national calendar, it’d be awesome, I reckon,” Jordan told What A Lad.

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“I think everyone really seemed to buy into it and the game itself was really cool. It was just a shame there was no crowd because it would have been a pretty cool atmosphere if there had been.”

 

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Jordan impressed in last year’s game, scoring two of the South Island’s five tries, which helped pave the way for a maiden All Blacks call-up the following day.

His second try saw him leap over the top of his Tasman teammate, and ex-Crusaders teammate, Mitch Hunt to catch Ioane’s cross-kick and score the match-winning try five minutes after the full-time siren.

While recounting the try on What A Lad, Jordan paid tribute to Ioane’s accuracy under pressure after calling the play alongside South Island fullback Jordie Barrett following a prolonged period of pressure inside the North Island’s half.

“I think before that, we had about three penalty advantages right in their attacking zone, and I had been calling for it [the cross-kick] before that,” Jordan said.

“Just knowing the physical difference between me and Hunty, I thought the cross-kick might have been a good option, but it didn’t really get out there, so me and Jordie went and talked to Josh Ioane, who was at 10, and said, ‘Look, if we get the advantage again, just pull trigger on it and just kick it’.

“To be fair, it was an on-the-money seed from Josh. He was under quite a bit of pressure. They came quite hard at him, and he did very well to execute that under pressure and put it on a dime.”

A good friend of Hunt’s, Jordan added that only recently has he begun to give the Highlanders playmaker grief for his missed opportunity to save the match for the North Island after initially feeling somewhat guilty for condemning his mate to defeat.

“As time goes on, I’ve given him a bit more banter about it. When I saw him in the sheds after the game, and probably sort of the coming week or two after that, I didn’t really give him too much stick about it,” Jordan said.

“I felt pretty bad about it actually – I didn’t feel bad, but he is obviously a good mate of mine and it was unfortunate that it had been over him.

“It would have been better if it was someone else, but, certainly as time’s gone on, I’ve started to give him more stick about it.”

Listen to Will Jordan’s interview on the What A Lad podcast below:

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