Six versus zero in All Blacks stakes as Auckland take on Otago this weekend

They’re a team with a storied history and some of rugby’s top global names.

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Otago aren’t bothered about a lack of international talent as they host Auckland in the ITM Cup. Source: 1 NEWS

Former stars like Taine Randell, Josh Kronfeld, Marc Ellis and Jeff Wilson, to name a few. Players to not only play for Otago, but also the All Blacks.

Now, though, for the first time since rugby turned professional, the 2020 Otago squad doesn’t have a single All Black selected in this year’s squad.

"There are none at the moment, but we’ve had guys that have been there," Otago coach Tom Donnelly says.

Donnelly isn’t phased by his players' exclusion from the national team, citing players like Josh Ioane and Liam Coltman knocking on the selectors doors.

The strange scenario, though, is in stark contract to their opponents Auckland, who this weekend will field six All Blacks.

"We keep joking around that we’re playing the All Blacks this week," Otago first-five Josh Ioane says.

Otago is this year looking to move up in to the Mitre 10 Cup's premiership division. The southerners so far have just one of two teams unable to move up from the championship since the first division was split into two groups in 2011.

"There’s no hiding from the fact, we’re here to win," Donnelly says.

Helping their cause this year is a man who knows the south all too well.

Former Highlanders co-captain and super rugby champion Nasi Manu has joined the side after five years in Europe.

"To come back to Dunedin, it feels like home," Manu, who grew up in Canterbury, says.

Manu’s first goal is to get game time, although he admits he’d love to stick around and play Super Rugby if selected.

“Of course, I wouldn’t say no to staying here,” Manu says with a smile.

Otago plays Auckland in Dunedin on Saturday.