In a conversation about the best five-eighths in recent All Blacks history, Beauden Barrett would figure strongly.

The chat would favour Daniel Carter as the most complete player across all aspects of his craft but arguments would be offered about the impact Barrett, Andrew Mehrtens, Grant Fox, Nicky Allen and Bob Burgess brought as they went about their work.

Anyone disputing Barrett's right to be included in that sort of discussion is not being fair or level-headed.


That quality has been evident since he was picked for his debut in 2012 and through his apprentice bench duties until his 26th test when he was chosen for his first start as five-eighths against the Wallabies.

That breakthrough came at Suncorp Stadium in 2014 after his rival Aaron Cruden was dropped for breaking team rules and the All Blacks squeaked home by a point.

Barrett has started six tests against the Wallabies, and the All Blacks have won the lot - most by large margins - as the five-eighths has wrapped two international Player of the Year awards around his 64-test portfolio.

Again there would be debate about those verdicts but no question Barrett deserved to be in the conversations. He is a classy player whose skills compound the work of his forwards and broaden the palate of his backline.

There are also times when his form has flat-lined and he has been unable to find that extra gear which separates him from most. That pattern affects every player, as tonight's centurion Sam Whitelock found out when he was left out for a few tests mid-career.

With Richie Mo'unga playing so well during the Super Rugby season and Barrett struggling to find his best, there was a strong case to give the senior man a spell.

Equally, the All Blacks selectors reasoned Barrett would rediscover his spark behind a strong set of forwards and orchestrate the damage from a very talented set of backs. Everyone should be grateful the All Blacks have such depth of choice.

Analysis of that decision and Barrett's contribution can wait until referee Jaco Peyper blows fulltime.


It's a luxury for the All Blacks to have such a five-eighths choice while the Wallabies have no options other than Bernard Foley. He's a competent player whose game has made headway despite troubles at the Waratahs but there are no other challengers for his place.

Kurtley Beale could shift in a spot but his game has untidy edges and returning five-eighths Matt Toomua is a solid contributor who has been playing offshore and not in tune yet with the pace and style of rugby in this part of the world.

Both five-eighths have the luxury of world-class service from Aaron Smith and Will Genia, two men who will work hard to make sure their backlines get the right sort of possession to make an imprint on this start to the Bledisloe Cup series.

Ignore Steve Hansen's cage-rattling jibe. The All Blacks are favourites for this test and the top-ranked side in the world by some margin. They did not show that clarity in June against France but with a full and fresh side and Barrett tucked in behind a Rolls-Royce pack, this is the stage for them to reiterate who is the dominant transtasman power.