For over a week now, the New Zealand Rugby trial match format and the North v South eligibility criteria have been hotly discussed subject. Ian Foster, head coach elect, has been promoting and arbitrating for the ‘pseudo All Blacks trial match’.
In a note to the past, the North v South Island trial has been a fixture played since 1897. Used in a form of squad selection process, it is not a Possibles v Probables, or even Town v Country match. The eligibility was defined by Ian Foster as a more of provincial ‘State of Origin’.
“It was certainly my recommendation,” Foster said to media on Monday. Over numerous television, print media, and radio interviews, the newly elected coach stated his preference. “I was asked by NZ Rugby what I thought, I’d like to think I make all those decisions but I don’t.
“When you go through the rationale for the game, we had to plan for a year where we could not have any International rugby. For us, it came down to an All Blacks trial against this North v South trial match. I’ve always believed Super Rugby is your All Blacks trial.
“Our preference was therefore to go to a North v South trial game.”
This now a realization, set for August 29 at Eden Park. Yet for all the positives and nostalgia it will provide, a little known radio producer has seemingly ‘sucked all the air from the room’ by submitting an unofficial Players Poll that gives an insight into many indicators of the very people who represent the game: see lower down page.
Publicized widely is a stunning revelation [for those looking from the outside], it hardly reflects well on Ian Foster and the freshly selected All Blacks coaching group. How that will tarnish the All Blacks management well….. only time will tell. Foster’s focus is now to follow Super Rugby, then look towards a much-anticipated trial match.
NZ Rugby trial match and unofficial Players Poll
When talk of an ‘old-time’ trial match was openly aired, it was in the midst of a period of dormancy. Like in the Northern Hemisphere, with idle players, officials, and decision-makers, ideas were tossed around. But while playing the Mitre 10 Cup instead of Super Rugby, the idea of a provincial selection criteria held firm.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) July 1, 2020
Even as International rugby is still up-in-the-air, the need to finalize a 2020 squad ready for any possible season required an internal trial match. The planned June tests against Wales and Scotland would have performed a major part of any All Blacks squad games – Super Rugby being used still, as the bedground for data on the player’s performance.
Now, with only Super Rugby Aotearoa to judge form by, and no International tests until at least September/October, this old school match-up was affirmed.
“We felt a North v South trial game in this awkward year was a chance to pull something out of our drawer, from years gone by. In those days, you picked them from the province they played for.”
It is a simple answer to a variety of formats, that included your first secondary school or college. Foster revealed, “in the modern era, with all the different layers and with pupils changing from one high school to another, and people changing provinces and franchises, the clearest way was ‘where individuals first made their decision to chase their professional career’. The original region and provincial union.”
That also removed any possibility of more popular North Island school programs eroding the power of the South; due to examples like a two-to-one scale of representative schools. “We want to make sure it is a very competitive game,” said Foster.
“We can’t be seen to be engineering it too much, so regardless of where you were born or which school you went to, it’s where your debut first-class provincial game.”
‘Clear and Simple’ idea to North v South trial match
By putting a line in the sand, or so to say ‘a piece of water’ in the form of the Cook Strait – the separation between the two islands that make up New Zealand – it simplifies the equation. “We wanted something clear and simple that is tightly related to the legacy of North-South as possible.
“That’s why we are sticking with first province.”
As the fifth round of Super Rugby Aotearoa brings fans the mouth-watering occasion of the Crusaders v Blues [Canterbury v Auckland] the at times has stoked a regional divide, it can also bring out the best in players. While prior trial games, like the ‘Possibles v Probables’ trial match (see main photo) have pipped Tana Umaga against his Hurricanes teammates, this fixture will pit your provincial mates against others. Expect some quality rugby banter.
Let the banter begin! Where does your heart lie?
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) July 1, 2020
Foster and his group of assistant coaches will divide up to direct the trial match. Two northern representative men to put the North Island to the test against former Crusaders players and coaches. Brad Mooar spoke highly of the values and rationale for the legacy match.
Teams will be prepared with all but not with every senior All Black involved. There may not need to be the risk to Aaron Smith or Patrick Tuipulotu; who are certain selections. You want the best four wingers plus a bolter or two – see Mark Talea or Will Jordan – and the same in the loose forwards. Why risk Ardie Savea to injury, when you really want Shannon Frizzle and a young star like Hoskins Sotutu to be compared.
Whichever teams line up on Eden Park, it will draw! The audience and the International interest will be massive. Possibly the only downside might be the continuity. Some take a Barbarians mindset into trial games yet, with so much on the line, the risk-and-reward is balanced by the need to ‘look good’ doing it.
In terms of looking good, the recent emergence of research taken from 100 Super Rugby players over the lockdown, will bring consternation and a few backslaps with its findings.
Country Radio survey brings both good and bad outcomes
A 40-question survey conducted by NZME’s Sam Casey has offered an insight into some good and bad outcomes from the anonymous survey. Of the more than 100 players who responded to a radio station survey, 72 percent had some problem with the Ian Foster-led set up.
Not to be seen as endorsed by NZ Rugby (NZR) or even a representation evenly across all the franchises, the most highly controversial outcome was that 46 percent believed NZR got the entire panel wrong, while another 26 percent were happy with Foster but not his assistants.
All too easy to focus on the negatives, and the survey authenticity [which has not been authenticated], some questions give a good indication of the answers most rugby fans would be interested to know.
The 10 questions from Lashes’ Players Poll that we’re released this morning. Your thoughts?Note: We know Glen Jackson is retired, but due to amount of submissions for him we just included him.
Some of the other poll results include:
- Beauden Barrett: 40 per cent
- Ardie Savea: 20 per cent
- Brodie Retallick: 12 per cent
- Eight others: 28 per cent
- Jordie Barrett: 33 per cent
- Will Jordan: 22 per cent
- Luke Jacobson: 14 per cent
- Sevu Reece: 14 per cent
- Six others: 17 per cent
- Beauden Barrett: 58 per cent
- Richie Mo’unga: 32 per cent
- Aaron Cruden: 9 per cent
- One other: 1 per cent
- George Bridge: 46 per cent
- Sevu Reece: 21 per cent
- Rieko Ioane: 13 per cent
- Ben Lam: 11 per cent
- Four others: 9 per cent
- Anton Lienert-Brown: 66 per cent
- Jack Goodhue: 21 per cent
- Ngani Laumape: 11 per cent
- Two others: 3 per cent
- Damian McKenzie: 47 per cent
- Jordie Barrett: 25 per cent
- David Havili: 18 per cent
- Beauden Barrett: 10 per cent
- Cullen Grace: 17 per cent
- Hoskins Sotutu: 14 per cent
- Mark Telea: 12 per cent
- 27 others: 53 per cent
Country Radio producer Sam Casey (Lashes is his on-air character), who conducted the poll, said he asked more than 100 players, including at least 15 from each of New Zealand’s five Super Rugby clubs, to reply anonymously to a raft of questions.
In conclusion, is it a positive position for the All Blacks management to be in? Of course not although, it is still an untried one. Results dictate opinions so, after the North v South trial match, and if safely possible, a Bledisloe Cup series, the answers to ‘popularity’ questions will likely change.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images