Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Rugby: Barrett stakes No 10 claim

Hurricane’s run of form threat to Aaron Cruden’s All Black first-five spot.

Beauden Barrett has been  on fire this season but Aaron Cruden is back in the game. Photo / Getty Images
Beauden Barrett has been on fire this season but Aaron Cruden is back in the game. Photo / Getty Images

The competition to wear the No10 jersey for the All Blacks against England next month is wide open after Hurricane Beauden Barrett engineered a demolition of the Chiefs in Wellington.

His rival for the All Blacks' first-five spot, Aaron Cruden, played the final 30 minutes for the visitors in the 45-8 thrashing at the Cake Tin, but was subdued on his return from a thumb injury.

He is the incumbent and No1 behind the resting Dan Carter, while Barrett is yet to start a test at first-five for the All Blacks in his previous 16 appearances. Colin Slade is also at the latest All Black training camp in Wellington - which finishes tomorrow - but the race for the pivotal role in the three-test series against England is between Cruden and the in-form Barrett.

While Cruden has been waiting for his thumb to heal, Barrett has gone about racking up points at will for the Hurricanes - nobody boasts a bigger individual tally than his 188 this season.

"He's doing everything right," All Black assistant coach Ian Foster said of Barrett. "He's putting us under pressure and that's exactly what we want out of him. So he's just a young man who's ambitious and pushing us and we are delighted with that."

Cruden is likely to be given the opportunity to start for the Chiefs when they host the Waratahs in New Plymouth on Saturday. It is looming as an extremely important moment in the Chiefs' season after the defending champions were humbled by the Hurricanes and it will give the All Black selectors a better idea of his fitness.

"He's certainly shown a mental capacity to come back and we think he can deal with pressure really well," Foster said. "What he probably hasn't had to deal with is a lengthy spell from injury, so time will tell."

Hurricanes wing Julian Savea, who scored two tries during his side's six-try victory over the Chiefs, has benefited from Barrett's strong Super Rugby form.

"He's going well ... he runs the team well and he's playing with a lot of confidence so that's good for us," Savea said.

Watch: Rugby: Hurricanes thrash the Chiefs

Video

The wider All Black squad arrived in the capital largely injury-free despite a brutal weekend of Super Rugby, which featured two derbies between Kiwi teams. In the other match, the Crusaders held out the fast-finishing Highlanders in Dunedin thanks to a scrambling tackle from fullback Israel Dagg on wing Patrick Osborne.

Hurricanes prop Ben Franks' groin caused him pain again as he left the field during the second half on Saturday night, while midfielder Ryan Crotty took a knock at Forsyth Barr Stadium but it isn't thought serious.

Crusaders No8 Kieran Read arrived in Wellington in good health after his concussion and cold and Foster said the 28-year-old was expected to take full part in their camp. Read also remains a strong chance to start the first test against England in Auckland on June 7.

- APNZ

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