All Blacks: Barrett happy to be home

By Daniel Richardson

Beauden Barrett during the Super Rugby match at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Photo / Getty Images
Beauden Barrett during the Super Rugby match at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Photo / Getty Images

Call it hometown sentiment if you like, but in Taranaki, Beauden Barrett is big news.

The 22-year-old might be the All Blacks' third-string first-five but there are few more popular figures in Amber and Black country than the son of former Taranaki stalwart Kevin who played 167 games for the province as a flanker and a lock, and 14 for the Hurricanes between 1997 and 1998.

If a snap poll was taken down the main streets of New Plymouth, the locals would likely select Barrett to start at pivot for the All Blacks in their third test against France at Yarrow Stadium this Saturday.

But with Dan Carter back from injury and Aaron Cruden in useful form, it's hard to see where Barrett fits in, although his ability to cover fullback may see him command a spot somewhere in the match-day 23.

Barrett said more than once today it would be a "dream come true" to play a test match on his home ground but acknowledged the All Blacks' brains trust couldn't pick their side based on keeping the locals happy.

"As much as the public want it, you can't do much about it," he said. "You've got to put a team out there. It is the New Zealand All Blacks and I suppose the selectors want to pick the best team to do the job and the main thing is we get out there and finish the job on the weekend and wrap the series up."

With victory in the first two tests, the All Blacks have safely secured the Dave Gallaher Trophy but would dearly love to sweep the series 3-0.

Barrett is an old boy of New Plymouth's Francis Douglas Memorial College, who boast another current All Black on their alumni list in centre Conrad Smith.

Although Smith has played all his professional rugby in Wellington after heading south for university more than a decade ago, Barrett said he'd be keen to share the field with the veteran No 13.

"I never thought I'd play with Conrad but to both play a test match here would be awesome."

Barrett's early memories of Yarrow Stadium extend back to the mid-90s when he watched his father play for Taranaki, although he concedes he has probably played more at Westpac Stadium in Wellington in recent years due to his Hurricanes commitments.

Barrett's parents won't be in the stands to see what their son does this weekend because they will be in France watching one of their other boys, Scott, who is part of the New Zealand under-20s side.

All Blacks coach Steven Hansen won't name his team until Thursday and there has been speculation that he may shake his side up slightly from the first two tests in a bid to blood a couple of youngsters.

One man who doesn't want a rest is openside flanker Sam Cane who has thrived in the absence of Richie McCaw to make a claim that he is the All Black captain's long-term successor in the No 7 jumper.

"I don't think the motivation's lacking. I think it's just two weeks of test footy and the body takes a few days to recover so guys are just a little bit ginger but the motivation's there for sure and we'd love to go 3-0," Cane said.

"I've really enjoyed the two 80-minute [games] in the last two weeks. It's been a test and it's something that I've really enjoyed so it's been good."

- APNZ

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