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Ian Foster defends criticised selection criteria for North-South match - 'We're sticking with the first province'

All Blacks coach Ian Foster has defended the selection criteria for next month’s North versus South match despite plenty of backlash from fans and players.

All Blacks selector Grant Fox, assistant coach John Plumtree and head coach Grant Fox watch the Super Rugby Aotearoa clash between the Hurricanes and Crusaders from the stands. Source: Getty

Excitement for the return of the fixture – scheduled to take place on August 29 at Eden Park – was marred after it was revealed the two teams won’t be selected by the region players grew up or went to school in.

Instead, players will be chosen based on their first provincial teams.

The criteria has an impact of some of the country’s best players, including the likes of Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown, Scott and Jordie Barrett and Brad Weber.

But Foster has stood up for the criteria, saying it was his recommendation after he had been asked by New Zealand Rugby on the matter.

"For us, it came down to an All Blacks trial against North versus South. I've always believed Super Rugby is your All Blacks trial. We want to pick our All Blacks out of Super Rugby,” Foster told NZME.

"Super Rugby Aotearoa is a great competition. We know the players are working hard in that space and that's how we want to assess them.

"Our preference was therefore to go to a North-South game. Is it an opportunity for players to impress? Of course it is. We're not denying that, but we felt a North-South game in this awkward year was a chance to pull something out of our draw from years gone by.

"In those days, you picked them from the province they played for. 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 they first made a decision to chase their professional career."

Foster added to his argument that going off a player’s upbringing and school history could “blur” the selection process.

“We wanted something clear and simple that is tightly related to the legacy of North-South as possible. That's why we're sticking with the first province.”

Foster, much like NZR chairman Brent Impey last week, re-iterated fans shouldn’t expect 2020 events such as Super Rugby Aotearoa and the North-South contest to remain as regular fixtures in New Zealand’s rugby calendar.

"Everyone in 2020 should treat it as a special one-off,” he said.

"This year is a unique chance for us to celebrate an old game with a bit of bite to it around opportunity for All Blacks and we'll then sit back and see.”

Foster’s comments come after it was revealed yesterday almost half of Kiwi Super Rugby players believe New Zealand Rugby got it wrong with their All Blacks coaching staff selections – including the new head coach.

More than 100 players were asked, “Did the NZRU get it right with their All Black coaching group?” to which 46 per cent said no. A further 26 per cent said Foster was a good appointment but his management team around him was off.