There's no doubt that attempting intercepts in top flight rugby is a high risk, high reward business.

The margins are fine as Beauden Barrett knew long before last night but will have the most stark reminder of that later today when he hears his longer term fate at a Sanzaar disciplinary hearing.

However hard done by some might feel he was to receive a red card against the Waratahs, he can't have any complaint. Any player who sticks his hand out to try to catch an opposition pass has to accept that if the ball isn't caught, the consequences will be severe.

That's how it has to be - the attacking side has to be given the benefit of the law and these days, anything not taken cleanly, regardless of whether a defender has genuine intercept intent or not - will be punished.


The old days of trying to decipher whether the defender was making a legitimate attempt to intercept the ball or slap it down to kill an attacking move are gone.

Referees have simplified their thinking in regard to the law. There are too many subjective referee interpretations as it is. Go for the ball and not take it cleanly - penalty and most likely a card. Take it cleanly and the chances are high the reward will be a clear run to the tryline.

And Barrett again knows this as he has previously enjoyed the rewards.

In November last year he was hailed a genius, when he pulled off the intercept cleanly and effectively won the All Blacks their final test of the year against France.

It was one of those swing moments in Paris. The French were on the All Blacks line. They were already playing well and looked destined to score and nudge in front midway through the second half.

Instead, as they went left to dot down in the corner, Barrett came out of the line, picked off the pass perfectly and had the pace to touch down under the posts. It was a 14-point play.

It was a high risk - although Barrett explained after that it wasn't quite what it seemed. He had picked an angle that meant if he had been beaten by the pass, he would still have been able to adjust and make the tackle.

Still, if he had dropped the ball, not get two hands to it and held on to it, it would most likely have been a penalty try and a yellow card.

Barrett has such pace and such good instincts that he shouldn't be deterred from taking risks. But an inevitable suspension that will be handed down later today should act as a strong reminder that his timing, accuracy and execution have to be spot on if he is going to take those defensive risks.