Hey Mister. Can we have our Beauden Barrett back?

That could have been the cry, as the golden boy of world rugby came thudding back to earth yet again, this time when faced with the dubious charms of the Barging Argies and their barrage of up-and-unders.

Barrett has lost his mojo during 2017, the one time flyer revealing feet of clay. Is it Barrett, have opponents wised up to him, is it the coaching, tactics?

It is certainly time for a selection re-think though, with Lima Sopoaga offering a better mixture of authority and dash.


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Steve Hansen calls for perspective about Beauden Barrett's kicking

With Damian McKenzie battling under the high ball in New Plymouth - and Ben Smith and Jordie Barrett unavailable - it may well be time for Barrett to revert to fullback against the Springboks this week.

It will be an understandable blow to his ego, no doubt, losing a hold on central control and the goalkicking.

Maybe he can rediscover what makes him tick in the No. 15 jersey, and get a new view of how the game unfolds. Because Barrett actually showed glimpses of the real Beauden Barrett when he shifted to fullback on Saturday night, after Sopoaga came on.

The All Blacks keep winning, but they are going in odd directions rather than forward. Their game is too lateral, while Barrett has gone backwards.

They are wedded to the idea they can spin the ball all over the place and wipe opponents out, even though there are large chunks of every test teaching them otherwise. Barrett might be a victim of this policy, the perpetrator, or both.

Whatever the reason, he is struggling to control the tempo and direct the traffic. He hasn't found another way or broadened his game, and the likes of Sonny Bill Williams are probably suffering in the madness.

Barrett lacks the patience and the savvy to manipulate games the way the likes of Cameron Smith does in rugby league, and the way Dan Carter did - eventually - to magnificent effect at the last World Cup.


And whereas legend Carter always had a great all round kicking game which his team could rely on, and prosper off, Barrett is erratic in all regards.

His kicking - from goal attempts to re-starts - was terrible at Yarrow Stadium. Two chip kicks were more like cries for help, as if one weird bounce would click his game back in place. The bouncing ball used to track Barrett like a crazy stalker - now it leaves him in the lurch. He was hoping for luck, rather than trying to earn it.

And while the All Blacks can defend Barrett's goal kicking all they like - and he did save the test in Dunedin - no one can ever be sure what he will deliver off the tee. One day, this could lose a big test.

At fullback, McKenzie is the magic flea of world rugby, and his endless changes of direction must give defenders nightmares. He's got more twists and turns than Game of Thrones.

The little man is always capable of creating a try like the one he set up against Argentina. He finished another, from a great TJ Perenara pass, brilliantly. But despite his bravery, McKenzie isn't getting close to many bombs coming his way.

Sopoaga, on limited time, showed good signs as a thinking No. 10 in New Plymouth. With Israel Dagg a far better test wing than fullback, Barrett is the best No. 15 for now so a shift there would strengthen the All Blacks overall.

Sopoaga to start, Barrett to fullback, with McKenzie cast as the second half wizard. That is my guess for Albany. It would be wonderful to see Barrett running freely again, and in the modern game he can still act as part pivot from fullback.


Rookie Vaea Fifita's stunning try and game against Argentina will live long in the memory. It was a rampaging performance, a matchwinner and a crowd pleaser.

I'd rate his try among the top three runaway test scores by a forward in this country. Ian Kirkpatrick's second test charge against the great 1971 Lions is hard to beat, but Springbok prop Richard Bands 50-metre effort in Dunedin, in 2003, might just be the best. Fifita's wonderful try at Yarrow Stadium belongs in that company.