All Blacks square off as North faces South

Fast-moving and high-scoring rugby - and maybe a dust-up or two - is on the menu when New Zealand's North and South Islands battle on Saturday night.

JORDIE BARRETT.
JORDIE BARRETT. Picture: Kerry Marshall/Getty Images

In Australia, it's state against state and mate against mate.

In New Zealand, the biggest domestic sporting rivalry pits island against island and brother against brother.

The fabled North v South rugby clash has been resurrected this year after an eight-year hiatus.

The fixture was first played in 1897 and was a mainstay of NZ rugby last century. It was lost during the game's professional era but returns during the COVID-interrupted season.

Saturday night's clash in Wellington gives the modern-day All Blacks and aspirants a chance to replicate yesterday's heroes.

"I've never been part of such a unique game," South representative and Crusaders mainstay Codie Taylor said.

"The superstars of the game, names we still remember today, played in these fixtures.

"For some of them, it created our careers. Now we get the opportunity and we're really looking to get stuck into it."

There's a great anticipation around the game, which could be New Zealand's biggest of the year given international rugby is yet to be fixtured for 2020.

Taylor said it would be played at "Test match intensity" given the clash pits All Blacks incumbents against aspirants for the national shirt.

"There's definitely no love lost when you're going up against mates," he said.

"I think it's going to be pretty open too. The ref might play a bit of advantage and let the game flow so it's quite entertaining for the fans."

Players will run out for the island that they first played senior representative rugby, rather than the island of their home towns.

That means Taylor, who grew up in Levin near Wellington, will run out in South Island's white strip.

It also means the superstar Barrett brothers will face off against each other; Beauden Barrett as No.10 for North and Jordie Barrett in South's No.15.

The Christchurch-born Ash Dixon, who debuted in Napier but now runs out for the Otago Highlanders, will play in North Island black.

"It's been a long time between drinks ... and it's two outstanding sides that are going to come together and lock horns," Dixon said.

The last match in 2012 was won by South 32-24, but is best remembered for a touchline brawl.

Dixon said representative rugby, with national team opportunities up for grabs, could see the same again.

"Any game has the potential to boil over," he said.

"Boys will be pretty keen. They haven't played footy in a few weeks ... so I'd say things could get out of hand. Who knows?"