Barrett's battle at the Border

By Jared Smith

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Beauden Barrett and Ardie Savea getting in some practice at Whanganui's Cooks Gardens yesterday.
Beauden Barrett and Ardie Savea getting in some practice at Whanganui's Cooks Gardens yesterday.

It's thin, but it does count as battlefield experience on Farmlands Grassroots Game Day.

On the eve of his final preseason hit-out for his new Hurricanes franchise, which will also be his first ever match alongside brother Beauden and against another brother in Crusaders lock Scott, Jordie Barrett has one advantage the others lack in Waverley this afternoon.

"I've played one age group game there, against Wanganui Under 13 for Taranaki U13," the 19-year-old said of Dallison Park while signing autographs at Cooks Gardens yesterday.

That otherwise forgotten 2008 match was an early sign of the emergence of the new family dynasty of New Zealand rugby - Jordie Barrett's older brothers Kane and Beauden were only two years away from following legendary father Kevin into the Taranaki senior rugby jersey, with Scott later earning Canterbury NPC honours after his move to Christchurch.

All four brothers have now made their way through Super Rugby, along with Jordie joining his star brother Beauden and the debuting Scott on the end of 2016 All Blacks tour as an "apprentice".

"I've never played with or against Scott or Beauden," the teenager said.

It's appropriate therefore the first time the three siblings have been involved in the same match is back in the Taranaki province, albeit South Taranaki which still has fielty to the Hurricanes through the Wanganui Rugby Football Union, whereas their home of New Plymouth has switched to the Chiefs.

World Cup-winner Beauden Barrett said while he has never played in Waverley, he was very aware of the hosting Border club's history.

"Early memories when dad was playing with the Coastal club and he'd go down. Us kids were too young to go down.

"It's pretty special [playing with Jordie] and I'll be against the other sibling.

"There's loads of Taranaki friends and family coming down too."

And they will be treated to a genuine quality contest with a week to go until the proper kickoff of 2017 Super Rugby as both sides have chosen just about their strongest teams to play as least half a match each.

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd has named four of his five All Blacks from 2016, with only injured skipper Dane Coles being rested, while new Crusaders Scott Robertson will be stepping off the plane in Whanganui this afternoon with most of his big names like Owen Franks, Sam Whitelock, Israel Dagg and Wyatt Crockett among 11 current or former All Blacks.

While the Crusaders are just making a flying visit, the Hurricanes have set out to wow the public - starting with yesterday's public training run at Cooks Gardens, while Coles will lead some of the injured players to visit the children's ward at Whanganui Hospital today.

While the Hurricanes will split their squad by playing one half each with a separate reserves bench to cover injury, Jordie Barrett said there was not the professional rivalry to have the "better" 40 minutes of the two squads, as he will make way for Nehe Milner-Skudder.

"The team's just trying to put a good game together, to tick a few boxes before our big game next week.

"It's a pretty similar sort of environment [from playing in Canterbury], but different playing structures, I've found."

Running the cutter in the first half, Beauden Barrett felt the same, and noticeably had a genuine excitment for both the match and coming season, which belied the line of questioning teams have been getting from seasoned rugby writers about being jaded from 12-month rugby.

"We've had a good break, had a few weeks of preparation. I'm excited of getting into regular weeks and regular games.

"It's time to have some fun.

"It's more what we take from the game. [Last year] we had a good preseason against them and then had a [competition] loss in Canberra."

That clash in Eketahuna was a shocking 80-point blow out win for the Wellington franchise, and it is fair to say the memory remains with Crusaders flanker Matt Todd, named joint-vice captain this week with Ryan Crotty under skipper Sam Whitelock.

"You never want to finish your preseason like that, it certainly makes for a stressful weekend into the competition proper, so you want to build momentum and build on the stuff you've been doing, and get confidence in it," Todd said.

"You work on stuff in preseason but you're never 100 percent sure how it's going until you test it in game situations.

"So when you lose by 80 or whatever it was last year, you certainly question what you're doing."

The decision to leave Eketahuna and give the far west boundary of the Hurricanes catchment a look-in at today's top talent is an initiative between the franchise and their major sponsor Farmlands.

"They like taking Super Rugby to the rural communities that don't get a chance to mix with these stars," said Hurricanes media manager Toby Robson.

"The players certainly enjoy a good chance to come out and see these guys. In the city, you take it for granted."

"It sounds corny, but the players really do appreciate that support.

"A lot of the guys in our team, they're rural kids, they're not all from the big city."

The sellout of 4500 in the small ground should make for a great atmosphere, with doors opening at 3.30pm today for the 5pm kickoff.

The teams are

Hurricanes
First half/Second half.
15. Jordie Barrett/Nehe Milner-Skudder; 14. Ben Lam/Cory Jane; 13. Vince Aso/Matt Proctor; 12. Pita Ahki/Ngani Laumape; 11. Wes Goosen/Julian Savea; 10. Beauden Barrett/Otere Black; 9. Chris Symlie/TJ Perenara; 8. Toa Halafihi/Blade Thomson; 7. Ardie Savea/Callum Gibbins; 6. Brad Shields/Reed Prinsep; 5. Mark Abbott/Michael Fatialofa; 4. Isaia Walker-Leawere/James Blackwell; 3. Mike Kainga/Jeffery Toomaga-Allen; 2. James O'Reilly/Ricky Riccitelli; 1. Loni Uhila/Chris Eves
Reserves for both halves: Ben May, Hugh Renton, Jonah Lowe.
Not considered: Dane Coles, Leni Apisai, Reggie Goodes, Sam Lousi, Vaea Fifita, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Kylem O'Donnell, Peter Umaga-Jensen.

Crusaders
1. Tim Perry; 2. Ben Funnell; 3. Owen Franks; 4. Scott Barrett; 5. Sam Whitelock (c); 6. Pete Samu; 7. Matt Todd (vc); 8. Whetu Douglas; 9. Ere Enari; 10. Richie Mo'unga; 11. George Bridge; 12. Ryan Crotty (vc); 13. Jack Goodhue; 14. Seta Tamanivalu; 15. Israel Dagg.
Reserves: Joe Moody, Wyatt Crockett, Michael Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor, Luke Romano, Quinten Strange, Mitchell Dunshea, Jed Brown, Jordan Taufua, Bryn Hall, Mitchell Drummond, Mitch Hunt, Sione Fifita, David Havili, Sean Wainui, Manasa Mataele, Marty McKenzie.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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