Wellington’s Sky Stadium will play host to New Zealand’s North vs. South match but the game will be played behind closed doors, NZ Rugby confirmed on Wednesday.
Originally slated for Aug. 29 at Eden Park in Auckland, the match was thrown into uncertainty when New Zealand experienced a second wave of COVID-19 cases, the majority of which were confined to the City of Sails.
The New Zealand Government moved Auckland back onto Level 3 restrictions which saw the Super Rugby Aotearoa finale, between the Blues and Crusaders, cancelled, while the rest of the country was placed onto Level 2 restrictions.
That meant players from the Blues had been unable to move to Wellington earlier this week to start training for the North-South match, prompting NZR to delay the game by a week to Sep. 5.
There had also been suggestions the match could be cancelled altogether, but they were thankfully put to rest on Wednesday afternoon [NZT].
“We’re delighted that the match can go ahead in Wellington, but obviously it’s a shame that it’ll have to be played without fans in the stands,” hris Lendrum, NZR’s General Manager of Head Professional Rugby and Performance, said. “We’re fully supportive and understanding of the Government’s health and safety recommendations regarding Covid-19.
“We feel for the Auckland fans who were set to fill Eden Park in their tens of thousands. If we have that same response from fans watching the match on TV, then it will be a huge audience tuning in on Sky.”
While there has been some conjecture around the way the two squads were selected, there are several positional battles that will be of huge interest to All Blacks coach Ian Foster and his fellow Test selectors.
The battle at fly-half between Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett headlines the match, though it is believed Foster favours a retention of the 10-15 approach the All Blacks used at last year’s World Cup which includes both players.