Rugby: Stakes high for North v South All Blacks hopefuls

The All Blacks hope to have some clarity about their international season by the end of the week.

But who they might play this year has been thrown into doubt, with world champions South Africa linked with a competition in Europe.

The North and South teams have assembled in Wellington for Saturday's rescheduled game, which could shape the final make-up of Ian Foster's first national squad.

There was a touch of nostalgia in the capital on Monday, as squad members wore their original provincial colours at their respective training sessions.   

These players will hope to don a black jersey in the coming months, but who they'll play remains uncertain. 

If French newspaper reports are to be believed, the world champion Springboks may not be coming, with claims South Africa could replace Japan in an eight-team 'Nations' tournament  in the UK.

Such an agreement would see them skip their defence of the Rugby Championship, scheduled to be held in New Zealand at the same time as the northern hemisphere competition.

"It would be extremely different," says North assistant coach Scott McLeod. "They're world champions, so their quality would be sorely missed."

SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos has told Newshub that plans for the Springboks to join the 'Eight Nations' have "no substance" and the Rugby Championship will proceed as normal.

"I think there's supposed to be some decisions towards the end of the week perhaps," McLeod adds. "We're just waiting to hear from that."

As one North v South battle plays out among world administrators, the significance of New Zealand's own North v South battle isn't lost on the players.

"There's almost a trial element to it," says new Blues forward Dillon Hunt. "Everyone's taking it quite seriously and just really glad to be a part of this environment."

With a place in the All Blacks squad at stake, no-one will lie down this weekend.

Watch the full story above and join us at 7pm Saturday for live updates of the North v South clash