By Tom Vinicombe of RugbyPass.com

Jordie Barrett is a prodigiously talented footballer. At just 20 years of age, he was thrust into the All Blacks lineup for his starting international debut against the British & Irish Lions, and has continued to develop his game since.

Three years older and wiser now, Barrett has revealed that if circumstances had been a bit different, he would never have pulled on the black jersey for the historic series. He may, in fact, have given up on playing professional rugby altogether.

Had things gone a bit differently, cricket may well have trumped rugby as Barrett's professional sport of choice.

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After high school, Barrett headed down to Lincoln University on a rugby scholarship but the oval football code wasn't his main focus.

"That first year out of school, cricket was more my priority," Barrett told RugbyPass.

"I was spending more time in the indoor nets down there at Lincoln University than I was in the gym.

"I was playing Central Districts Under 19s then, and I was giving the NZ Under 19s a red-hot crack because there was the World Cup at the end of the year.

"Unfortunately, I missed out on their World Cup squad that went to Bangladesh," Barrett said.

"I was a bit disappointed with that but, at the time, I probably wasn't good enough anyway.

"But I played cricket all summer again and then went back down to Lincoln the next year."

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Jordie Barrett bowls during the Black Clash Rugby vs Cricket 20/20 cricket match at McLean Park. Photo / Photosport
Jordie Barrett bowls during the Black Clash Rugby vs Cricket 20/20 cricket match at McLean Park. Photo / Photosport

Barrett's commitment to the summertime sport was probably in part due to the promise he'd shown at high school. While he'd been a handy rugby player, his skills didn't compare to what he could do on the cricket pitch.

Despite making his All Blacks debut at just 20, the Francis Douglas Memorial College alumnus was overlooked completely for the New Zealand Secondary Schools side in 2014.

"To tell you the truth, I was a skinny white battler [at high school]," Barrett admitted.

"I could kick a ball but I still hadn't had my growth spurt by then. I was only six foot and playing first-five and I would've been nowhere near in the frame of New Zealand schools so that wasn't a tough pill to swallow.

"I knew I wasn't really in the top 50 rugby players in New Zealand, at that stage, and that's just when I was just enjoying my cricket."

Being overlooked for the national Under 19 cricket side in 2014 changed things for the 'white battler', however, with rugby benefitting from the snubbing.

"At the start of 2016, I played prems for Lincoln University as well as Crusaders Knights at the start of the season," Barrett said.

"And then, that was the same year as the Under 20s, and Razor [Scott Robertson] was head coach and he picked me for that, and then picked me in this Canterbury Mitre 10 side so that's basically where it all started."

All Blacks Sam Cane, Jordie Barrett and Beauden Barrett. Photo / Photosport
All Blacks Sam Cane, Jordie Barrett and Beauden Barrett. Photo / Photosport

Barrett's Under 20s didn't have their most successful season, finishing in fifth place, but his first and only stint with Canterbury later that season ended in a Premiership title.

From there, the Hurricanes came calling, and a year later, Barrett was running out in the black jersey to take on the British and Irish Lions.

It was a whirlwind journey that may never have happened if Barrett had made that Under-19 World Cup, or completely pushed rugby to the side and focused on just one sport – which many people had suggested to him.

"It was a funny one because I was getting told by a lot of people from the respective codes that you've got to start choosing, gotta start specialising in one," said Barrett.

"My parents, the whole time, they just keep saying 'You don't have to commit to any one – just keep playing both sports for as long as possible and then whatever happens, happens.'

"Basically, that's all it was. It happened that I didn't make the Under 19 World Cup squad and then I made Under 20s for rugby the next year and I didn't really have a chance to go back to cricket the next summer - so it just worked out that way."

Cricket's loss is rugby's gain, and the 23-year-old has already played 17 international matches – including his starting debut against the Lions and five games at last year's World Cup in Japan.

There's still plenty of time for the utility back to develop into a world-class player – a player that we may never have seen the best of if he'd been snapped up by the New Zealand Under 19 cricket team in 2016.

This article first appeared on RugbyPass.com and has been republished with permission