Jordie Barrett hopes his heavier, more durable body will allow him to be a more effective midfielder for the Hurricanes this year, a goal that is likely to please the All Blacks selectors just as much as Chris Boyd.
Now weighing 103kg after putting on six or seven kilograms during his rehabilitation from a serious shoulder injury, the new and improved Barrett – one of the success stories for the All Blacks last year – is likely to be even more important for the national team in 2018 and beyond.
Barrett, who turns 21 on Saturday, required surgery on a dislocated shoulder suffered in last year's Super Rugby semifinal against the Lions in Johannesburg.
He played in the midfield or at fullback for Boyd's Hurricanes during his debut season and at fullback for the All Blacks during his two tests but could come into the mix as a midfield option for Steve Hansen this year.
At 1.96m (6 foot 5 inches), Barrett is 5cm taller than the All Blacks incumbent second-five Sonny Bill Williams and now only 5kg lighter.
"I've spent some time at home so mum's cooking has helped," Barrett, in Auckland for the launch of the Super Rugby season, told the Herald. "She's been feeding me up so I've added six or seven kilos so hopefully it can help my performance; take a few more knocks and maybe be a bit more durable for the midfield.
"In the past I found it very hard to put on weight – especially during school and the first couple of years out, but one thing that does help is that I've got a lean frame so I'm allowed to put on weight which means I can eat whatever I want so I'm in a lucky position."
Barrett often played a key second-pivot role in the No12 jersey outside older brother Beauden for the Hurricanes last season. His height, skill level, pace and ability to change the angle of attack made him a handful for opposition defences and his excellent goalkicking was an added bonus.
"I played all my secondary school rugby and age grade rugby – under-20s and at Lincoln [University] at second-five," he said. "[Playing] No15 has happened over the last couple of years but I'm just keeping my options open – I just want to be good enough to play both and to fit into the team wherever possible."
He hoped to make his return for the Hurricanes in round four against the Crusaders in Wellington on March 10. "My main focus is to just get back on the park so the next three weeks are crucial for me."
And while last year's injury was a setback for Barrett, it allowed him to take what he described as a "timely break", something All Blacks assistant Ian Foster mentioned last year too.
Describing his breakout year, Barrett said: "Everything happened pretty quickly. I was speaking to Chris Boyd about it the other day. Basically the plan at the start of the season was to play a few minutes, come off the bench and sort of get used to the professional environment, so I was blown away by what happened. But that was last year and I'm excited to have the opportunity again this year."
His performance and try in the third test against the British & Irish Lions was one of the high points in a disappointing draw for the All Blacks.
And while he said his focus at this stage was more short-term than long-term, the lure of the All Blacks jersey is clearly at the back of his mind, particularly with a test against England at Twickenham in store in November and a World Cup around the corner.
"I do want to play well and get back into that environment because it is pretty inviting."
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