Rugby: Let Jordie Barrett go with his peers

By Campbell Burnes

Jordie Barrett. Photo / Getty Images.
Jordie Barrett. Photo / Getty Images.

COMMENT

Jordie Barrett should be allowed to join the New Zealand Under 20s for their world championship campaign in Georgia.

This is the timeline of what should happen: on May 20, the Hurricanes play the Cheetahs in Wellington. The next morning, Barrett should fly to Auckland to link up with his Under 20 teammates in camp. Then he will fly with the team to Georgia to prepare for their opening clash against Scotland on May 31. The likelihood, according to coach Craig Philpott, is that Barrett will be used mainly as fullback with the Under 20s, unlike in 2016, when he operated mainly at second five.

So the Hurricanes will have three games without the younger Barrett: the Bulls and Force on tour and the Chiefs at home on June 9. They'll cope, as they have coped without Dane Coles, inter alia, in their 2017 title defence.

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd has some sympathy as he took the Under 20s in 2013-14, but he is inclined to leave the final call to the player.

New Zealand Rugby should make the call. Let us not make the same mistake as in 2012 when TJ Perenara was ruled out of the Under 20s' campaign to stay with the Hurricanes and then busted his leg in some meaningless festival game in Brisbane instead of helping a national team to glory.

Of course, much may depend on the fitness and playing return of Nehe Milner-Skudder, whose foot is in plaster. Step up, Cory Jane, if that is still an issue in three weeks. Barrett originally got his chance because of injury to Jane. He has taken to Super Rugby like the proverbial duck to water. His skills and temperament have been to the fore from the back.

They are not in question, though Boyd's plan had been to introduce him gradually to this level.

Barrett was originally named as vice-captain of the Under 20s for their short Oceania series, which kicks off this Friday on the Gold Coast. He was withdrawn, and fair enough, as that series is well down in importance to the world champs in Georgia and Philpott says it was agreed that it is best for his development that he stay with his franchise for the short-term.

But do not then whinge if a Barrett-less Under 20s do not come home with the silverware which, lest we forget, they have won just once since his brother Beauden scored a try in the 2011 final.

The argument being advanced is that Barrett junior could be an All Black in June. Why would he be, unless there are at least two injuries at fullback? He has the skills to play international rugby, no doubt, but why the need to chuck him into a high pressure Lions series when you have Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Nehe Milner-Skudder (probably), Damian McKenzie and Beauden Barrett?

Have a look at the timing, too. The Under 20s' final wold champs game is on June 19 (NZT). The Lions test series kicks off on June 24. Maybe if the All Blacks have clinched the series 2-0, you could bring him onto the bench for the final clash on July 8. Isn't that a preferable strategy to robbing an important player from a supposedly important national team?

- NZ Herald

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