Beauden Barrett is only a few steps away from discovering his best attacking form.

As in literally, a few steps. All sorts of theories have been put forward as to why the world's best player hasn't been as prominent this year as he was last.

But when it comes down to it, probably the biggest reason Barrett has been shut down regularly this year is that he's too often receiving the ball too close to the advantage line.
It might be that simple - take a few steps back and buy more time. That would seem to be the conclusion that was reached by him and the All Blacks coaches after reviewing last week's 39-22 victory in New Plymouth.

Barrett has a natural inclination to play flat. He likes to take the ball being able to see the whites of the opposition's eyes.


Ideally, that's where the All Blacks coaches want him to be mostly operating. But not exclusively. He can't effectively launch the All Blacks' attack game if he's always trying to do it out of the heaviest traffic.

The conclusion from the last few weeks is that he needs to be prepared to sporadically step back, retreat a few steps from the advantage line and be prepared to work behind it.

Why make it easy for the opposition to get to him? Why give them 80 minutes where he is an easy target?

There's a balance to be struck because the All Blacks don't want to spend a test trying to play all their football on the retreat, but with Barrett's pace and skills, he can potentially work a bit of magic against a rush defence if he gives himself a bit more space and time.

"We have learned from the weekend that it can be a perceived line speed and that we can be playing into their hands if we are too flat at the line," says Barrett. "We have ways of dealing with that.

"We allowed them to have that space because we were a bit flat at times. I certainly wouldn't call them [Argentina] a rush defence team. I would expect a bit more from South Africa."

The key for Barrett this week in Albany is to find a way to strike that balance about attacking points.

The skill is knowing when to drop back and buy time and space against when to be taking the ball hard on the line.

There will be no specific plan in that regard. It will be down to Barrett to assess the various situations and determine the best action.

That was one of his major strengths last year - he seemed to read the game more effectively and accurately and make better decisions on the ball.

He was miraculously good at picking the time to back himself and it became a feature of most tests that at some stage, he would fire through the defence on an arcing run past flailing defenders.

He was adept at seeing where opportunities lay and just as good at working out the best way to exploit them.

That's something he feels he has to rekindle this year - that he hasn't been as good at seeing mismatches or weak links in the opposition defence.

"I just have to have better situational awareness of who is around me and what the best options are for that occasion," he says.

"Understand the difference of having a tight forward outside me or inside versus having an outside back.

"I guess it's also about speed of ball. If we have quick ball or slow ball and whether it is front foot ball versus whether we are going backwards. These are the main cues."