Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

All Blacks: Time to put the first-five Barrett to the test

Starting supersub against Pumas in No 10 jumper this weekend would be ideal way to gauge sort of qualities required next year as World Cup looms

Starting Beauden Barrett at No10 for the All Blacks has been an exercise in frustration - whenever it seems likely, a reason for it not to happen has cropped up.

The selectors want to see him start at first-five before the World Cup. He's done plenty from the bench but, given the injury toll that struck their No10s in 2011, the All Blacks think it would be wise for Barrett to have experienced starting a test at first-five at least once before then.

His only other test starts being at fullback, against Italy in 2012 and Japan last year.

Barrett was set to start at first-five this year in Hamilton until Conrad Smith broke his thumb and the selectors decided they didn't want to make two changes to their midfield, sticking with Aaron Cruden.

The test against the USA in November and the one two weeks later against Scotland would be obvious games for Barrett to start at first-five, but Daniel Carter has once again muddied the waters.

Carter is expected to have recovered from his broken leg later this month and, having been on sabbatical for the first six months of this year, the plan may well be to run him into form on the European tour as happened last year.

Gazing into the crystal ball, Barrett's opportunities to start are limited, which is why this Saturday's test may be the right game for him to be given the jersey he covets.

The intrigue mounted yesterday when his girlfriend tweeted: "All good things come to those who wait". Could Barrett have been shoulder-tapped by coach Steve Hansen?

The perils of the modern age warn against reading too much into a cryptic message posted through social media. Those inclined to brand that tweet a red herring could point to the fact that Cruden played his best test for the All Blacks at Eden Park and it would make no sense to reward him with a seat on the bench.

And yet perhaps that's why the selectors feel they should inject Barrett this week. There would be no ambiguity: it would be a definite case of Barrett being given an opportunity rather than Cruden being dropped.

It would be unusual for this selection panel to make a non-enforced change but there are different rules when it comes to first-five.

Coming off the bench after having had time to assess the opposition is a specific skill Barrett has acquired - but it's a different business starting.

Beauden Barrett


21
Tests
19
Appearances as a sub
1
As starter then subbed
1
80-minute test (at fullback)

Daniel Carter


100
Tests
5
Appearances as a sub
34
As a starter then subbed
61
80-minute tests

Aaron Cruden


34
Tests
14
Appearances as a sub
14
As a starter then subbed
6
80-minute tests

- NZ Herald

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf02 at 24 Oct 2014 05:12:10 Processing Time: 602ms