All Blacks star Jordie Barrett is in line for his first appearance for his home province of Taranaki in the opening round of the Mitre 10 Cup this weekend.
Barrett is among a slew of All Blacks who were named in Ian Foster’s 35-man squad on Sunday and have been released to play for their provincial sides across New Zealand over the coming days.
It means that Taranaki’s season-opening clash against Bay of Plenty in Inglewood this Sunday could be the 23-year-old’s first appearance for the Bulls since signing with them three years ago.
In doing so, he returned to the province of which he was born and grew up in, but Barrett is yet to don the yellow and black jersey after having made his first-class debut for Canterbury as a teenager in 2016.
While Sunday’s match presents a prime opportunity to register his first cap for Taranaki, he may have to do so without the services of older brother Beauden.
The 83-test playmaker is among four players – including Joe Moody, Braydon Ennor (both Canterbury) and All Blacks captain Sam Cane (Bay of Plenty) – who are being assessed by medical staff this week to see whether they can play this weekend.
Two further players – new All Blacks lock Quentin Strange (Tasman) and Dane Coles (Wellington) – are still recovering from respective injuries and will be unavailable for their respective provinces.
Otherwise, all other members of the All Blacks squad are set to play in New Zealand’s premier domestic competition this weekend.
Auckland appear to have benefitted from this more than any other side in the competition given they welcome back seven All Blacks, more than any other province, into their set-up ahead of their bout with Otago in Dunedin on Saturday.
Elsewhere, star halfback Aaron Smith could make his first appearance for Manawatu in nearly a decade when they face Jack Goodhue’s Northland in Whangarei on Sunday, with the 31-year-old last playing for the Turbos in 2011.
The same can be said of Sam Whitelock, who could play for Canterbury for the first time in 10 years when they open the 2020 campaign against North Harbour in Albany on Friday.
Dalton Papalii (Counties Manukau) and Sevu Reece (Tasman), meanwhile, are in line to make their debuts for their new provinces after having transferred from Auckland and Waikato, respectively, during the off-season.
All Blacks released to play in the Mitre 10 Cup this weekend:
North Harbour vs Canterbury
7.05PM, Friday 11 September, North Harbour Stadium, Auckland
North Harbour: Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Canterbury: Codie Taylor, Samuel Whitelock, Cullen Grace, Richie Mo’unga and George Bridge.
Waikato vs Wellington
2.05PM, Saturday 12 September, FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
Waikato: Anton Lienert-Brown and Damian McKenzie.
Wellington: Asafo Aumua, Ardie Savea and TJ Perenara.
Otago vs Auckland
Saturday 12 September, 4.35PM, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Auckland: Alex Hodgman, Ofa Tuungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Akira Ioane, Hoskins Sotutu, Rieko Ioane and Caleb Clarke.
Counties Manukau vs Tasman
Saturday 12 September, 7.35PM, Navigation Homes Stadium, Pukekohe
Counties Manukau: Nepo Laulala and Dalton Papalii.
Tasman: Tyrel Lomax, Shannon Frizell, Sevu Reece and Will Jordan.
Northland vs Manawatu
Sunday 13 September, 2.05PM, Semenoff Stadium, Whangarei
Northland: Jack Goodhue.
Manawatu: Aaron Smith.
Taranaki vs Bay of Plenty
Sunday 13 September, 2.05PM, TET Stadium & Events Centre, Inglewood
Taranaki: Tupou Vaa’i and Jordie Barrett.
Southland vs Hawke’s Bay
Sunday 13 September, 4.35PM, Rugby Park Invercargill
Hawke’s Bay: Brad Weber.
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