File photo of Beauden Barrett. Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

New Zealand's North v South rugby game delayed because of virus restrictions

The hotly-anticipated clash has been put back a week to 5 September.

, NEW ZEALAND’S MUCH-ANTICIPATED North v South Island rugby match was delayed Friday after health authorities refused to let players travel from locked-down Auckland.

Squads were due to assemble in Wellington on Monday ahead of the 29 August fixture, but New Zealand Rugby said 14 Auckland-based players and five support staff were barred from leaving because of coronavirus restrictions.

As a result, New Zealand Rugby postponed the match for a week to 5 September.

“We’re disappointed that the game can’t go ahead at this stage next week, but we understand and respect the government’s decision,” New Zealand Rugby head of professional rugby Chris Lendrum said.

He said a decision was yet to be made on whether the match will be played in Auckland, as originally planned, or Wellington.

Auckland is currently in lockdown as New Zealand’s largest city attempts to contain a second wave of infections that ended a streak of 102 days without community transmission nationwide.

Restrictions are due to be eased next week,and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said there are encouraging signs the cluster of cases is under control.

The government is set to make a decision Monday on whether to continue the lockdown and New Zealand Rugby said it would wait until then to determine the match venue.

The North-South match was first contested in 1897 and was once among the most anticipated and bitterly contested matches in the New Zealand rugby calendar.

It fell out of favour after the advent of professionalism in 1995, but returns this year after New Zealand’s home Test schedule was thrown into disarray by the Covid-19 pandemic.

All Blacks selectors Ian Foster, Grant Fox and John Plumtree picked the two squads for the eagerly-anticipated clash, with Sam Whitelock captaining the South Island and Patrick Tuipulotu leading the North Island.

North Island squad:

Hookers: Asafo Aumua (Wellington), Ash Dixon (Hawke’s Bay) and Kurt Eklund (Auckland)

Props: Alex Fidow (Wellington), Ayden Johnstone (Waikato), Angus Ta’avao (Auckland), Karl Tu’inukuafe (North Harbour) and Ofa Tuungafasi (Auckland)

Locks: Scott Scrafton (Auckland), Patrick Tuipulotu (Auckland, captain) and Tupou Vaa’i (Taranaki)

Back rows: Lachlan Boshier (Taranaki), Akira Ioane (Auckland), Dalton Papalii (Auckland), Ardie Savea (Wellington) and Hoskins Sotutu (Auckland)

Scrum-halves: TJ Perenara (Wellington), Aaron Smith (Manawatu) and Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (Taranaki)

Out-half: Beauden Barrett (Taranaki)

Centres: Rieko Ioane (Auckland), Anton Lienert-Brown (Waikato) and Peter Umaga-Jensen (Wellington)

Back threes: Caleb Clarke (Auckland), Mitchell Hunt (Auckland), Damian McKenzie (Waikato), Sevu Reece (Waikato) and Mark Telea (North Harbour)

South Island Squad

Hookers: Liam Coltman (Otago), Andrew Makalio (Tasman) and Codie Taylor (Canterbury)

Props: George Bower (Otago), Alex Hodgman (Canterbury), Nepo Laulala (Canterbury), Tyrel Lomax (Tasman) and Joe Moody (Canterbury)

Locks: Mitchell Dunshea (Canterbury), Manaaki Selby-Rickit (Southland) and Samuel Whitelock (Canterbury, captain)

Back rows: Tom Christie (Canterbury), Shannon Frizell (Tasman), Dillon Hunt (Otago), Reed Prinsep (Canterbury) and Tom Sanders (Canterbury)

Scrum-halves: Finlay Christie (Tasman), Mitchell Drummond (Canterbury) and Brad Weber (Otago)

Out-halves: Josh Ioane (Otago) and Richie Mo’unga (Canterbury)

Centres: Braydon Ennor (Canterbury), Jack Goodhue (Canterbury) and Sio Tomkinson (Otago)

Back threes: Jordie Barrett (Canterbury), Leicester Faingaanuku (Tasman), George Bridge (Canterbury) and Will Jordan (Tasman).

© – AFP, 2020, with reporting by Murray Kinsella 

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