The debate over where Beauden Barrett fits in at the All Blacks will grow after his performance at flyhalf against the Chiefs, writes DYLAN JACK.
Could we see Barrett go head to head with Richie Mo’unga for the All Blacks No 10 jersey?
That would have been the question in many supporters’ minds after Barrett completed his first match at flyhalf for the Blues in their nail-biting 21-17 victory over the Chiefs at Eden Park.
It was Barrett’s first start at No 10 since the All Blacks’ one-sided World Cup warm-up win against Tonga in September last year. All things considered, it was a very impressive outing for the 29-year-old.
Barrett made 42 metres from 13 carries, with one clean break, beating three defenders as the Blues made a blistering start to the match and flew into a 14-0 lead. Even when possession dried up as the Chiefs battled their way back into the match, Barrett showed few signs of rustiness in the position, staying composed and controlling the game very well for his side.
— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) July 26, 2020
The All Blacks’ depth at fullback is, frankly, ridiculous. While Barrett started there throughout the 2019 World Cup campaign, his younger brother, Jordie, is finally putting together a consistent run of excellent performances at 15 for the Hurricanes.
2020 has also brought the rise of Will Jordan. The 22-year-old has kept the more experienced David Havili out of the Crusaders starting lineup with a number of impressive showings and has shown his versatility to play both wing and fullback.
Let’s also not forget that Damian McKenzie, who has been a shining light in an otherwise disappointing year for the Chiefs, looked set to play at fullback for the All Blacks in 2019 before an ACL injury kept him out for the rest of the year.
It, therefore, looks as if Barrett’s best chance of starting for the All Blacks would be to get a good run of games at flyhalf. However, it will be no easy feat to get the jersey from Mo’unga, who is in the form of his life for the Crusaders at present.
Despite ending up on the wrong side in a historic loss against the Hurricanes over the weekend, Mo’unga clocked some crazy numbers. The 26-year-old made 92m from 12 carries, incredibly beating 12 defenders (the most of any player on the field), making four clean breaks and setting Sevu Reece up for a comfortable run-in for a try. He also reached over for a try himself in the first half and kicked 12 points.
How’s the offload from Goodhue 👏🏽👏🏽
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) July 25, 2020
The big question will be whether Blues coach Leon McDonald persists with Barrett at flyhalf for their remaining fixtures against the Highlanders and Crusaders, or reverts to backing Otere Black, who was finally showing his potential and was only named on the bench because of a knock.
The 10-15 combination between Black and Barrett was a key element of the Blues’ excellent start to Super Rugby Aotearoa, especially with regard to the latter’s ability to step into the reciever’s channel and kick off both feet. It wouldn’t be a surprise if a fit-again Black returns to the starting lineup against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Sunday, with Barrett moving back to fullback.
Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images