Beauden, Scott and Jordie Barrett encapsulate almost all of the aspects of all the brothers that have come before — they are, in effect, the ultimate set for the modern age of All Blacks rugby.
It's hard to go past any piece of punditry about the Taranaki family that doesn't mention how their dad Kevin "Smiley" Barrett played flanker for the Hurricanes in the first years of Super Rugby, and about how he announced once he retired that he was "off to make some All Blacks".
Like all myths, while it sounds good, it isn't true. By the time Smiley had played his last game for the Hurricanes, a semifinal loss to the Brumbies in Canberra to conclude their stunning 1997 season, all his future All Blacks sons had already been born.
By then, Beauden was six years old, Scott four and Jordie three months old. His eldest son Kane would also go on to a professional rugby career, and Smiley and mother Robyn would add Blake, Zara, Ella and Jenna in the next few years.
The Barrett family shifted to Meath in Ireland in 2000, where Smiley worked as a farm manager and the oldest boys played Gaelic football. You don't need to be an expert on the sport to know that some of its key skill sets are more than useful when transferred to rugby, and that's exactly what they did when they returned to New Zealand after a year-and-a-half.
Like the Meads, one of the brothers is far more prominent than the others. Beauden, the human highlight reel of a first-five, has widely been regarded as the best player in the world for most of his career. In fact, he's been officially bestowed with that honour twice.
Beauden Barrett's name is now in the realms of superstar status.
But, like the Clarkes, the brother in the engine room is a complete contrast to the flashy skills of the other two. Scott has developed as an outstanding lock, grafting away to provide the ball supply his brothers can turn into tries.
Like the Whettons, they hold a record in terms of brotherhood as the only three brothers to have played a test together. Also, like AJ, one of them spent a frustrating period at the start of his career waiting for an opportunity to make a starting place his own. When Beauden did, he grabbed it with both hands and became the pre-eminent player in his position.
Like the Saveas, there will be massive conjecture as to where their post-All Blacks careers will take them. Already, Beauden is being lined up to be farmed out for a year in Japan so the All Blacks can retain his services while having someone else pay the wages he's probably worth.
Exactly where Jordie finds himself after the World Cup in 2019 may well be part of the ongoing saga of offshore player drain and of what happens to the All Blacks if they decide to go or stay.
Beauden was the first of the brothers to make the All Blacks, but if you were to make a prediction as to how his career was going to pan out halfway through 2015, it seemed like he was on course to become the most prolific bench player of all time: 33 of his first 39 appearances for the All Blacks since his debut against Ireland in 2012.
He had had a few starts in 2014, one of which was an epic loss to the Springboks at Ellis Park. By now, Dan Carter had returned to be the starting first-five, though he was beginning to come under immense pressure from Aaron Cruden.
Beauden's utility value was a blessing and a curse — it meant he probably wouldn't get a starting shot at either first-five or fullback, because he was more useful on the bench as cover for both.
Even the fact his attacking flair was on show when he'd be injected into the game seemed to be evidence that he was better suited to come in and finish a game off, rather than be trusted to run the backline from kick-off.
His first test start came at fullback anyway, and the general consensus was that it was there that he would be most useful. Which is why, by the time the World Cup year came around, his name barely featured in what would become the prime debate of the season.
A lot of folks like to give the New Zealand Herald's sports columnist Chris Rattue an inordinate amount of grief for his bold and ultimately highly inaccurate prediction that Carter ought to have been dropped for the World Cup campaign. It's unfair, given that at the time, Rattue and quite a lot of others were working off the basis that Cruden would be the one to take over. That wasn't such a stretch at the time — Cruden had recently won two Super Rugby titles with the Chiefs and was in hot form. Also, by then Carter was 33.
Unfortunately for Rattue and everyone else in that camp, Cruden broke his leg in the lead-up to the tournament. If he'd stayed fit and started, this story may well have been different.
Instead, Carter played, found some of the form that made him the best player in the world for a good chunk of the last decade, and then played a superb game in the final at Twickenham. The moment belonged to him, scoring 19 points including a long-range dropped goal in the 34-17 win over the Wallabies. But, in a portent of things to come, Beauden came on to the field and scored the last try —chasing down a kick ahead by Ben Smith to outgun the tired defenders and sealing the win. But it didn't just do that — his performances across the tournament, including getting a start at first-five against Namibia, effectively cleared the slate for the next year's battle for the starting spot with Cruden.
It also helped that in 2016 his Hurricanes side finally broke through and won a Super Rugby title, after 20 seasons of trying.
Beauden was a leading hand in what ended up being the most thrilling regular-season finish in the tournament's history, with the Hurricanes leaping from fifth to first on the table with a 35-10 win over Scott's Crusaders side, even scoring a cheeky try to finish the game. He got another a few weeks later in the final against the Lions at a frozen Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
One of the games they'd dropped in the course of the season was a 28-27 result to Cruden's Chiefs. Steve Hansen went with Cruden for the first two tests of the year against Wales. The first was a scratchy 39-21 win at Eden Park, which the Welsh had even led at halftime. While Cruden's injury that kept him out of the World Cup had left the door ajar for Beauden, the next test would see it well and truly kicked down. Unfortunately for Cruden, who had battled cancer as a teenager to make it to being an All Black, the key moment came when he was injured after half an hour of the second test in Wellington. Beauden entered the fray, set up Smith for a try, then scored one himself in front of the same crowd that had cheered him on to Super Rugby glory. Final score 36-22.
He started the next test in Dunedin, and scored 26 against Wales, which was slaughtered 46-6. Then the next, where the Wallabies were pounded 42-8. Then the next six, in which the All Blacks outscored their opponents 257-86. Beauden Barrett could do no wrong.
There have been plenty of rumours and speculation about the circumstances surrounding the next game Beauden started, though. One thing is for sure: it was the first game in which two of the Barrett brothers would feature. Scott had impressed Hansen enough that he was included on the end-of-year tour, and the All Blacks travelled to Chicago for the first of their two matches against Ireland.
This was a gimmick game for their sponsor AIG to show off their new toy set, the best team in the world at any sport. At the same time, it's pretty hard to try to make excuses for the All Blacks because they'd never do it themselves. But things looked mighty ominous when they walked out and found themselves in front of a 62,000-strong crowd mostly wearing green.
To make things even more tricky, Scott found himself on the bench behind an out-of-position Jerome Kaino and fellow rookie Patrick Tuipulotu. Those selections hadn't escaped the attention of Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, or his team. By the time Scott made his debut as an All Black in the 45th minute, they were on the wrong end of a 25-8 deficit, which became 30-8 only a couple of minutes later.
It was the opposite of when his brother had come off the bench to debut four years earlier against the Irish in Hamilton. That night, Beauden strolled on to the field with his team up 26-0, which eventuated into a record 60-0 hiding.
There's been so much talk about the Irish effort in the Chicago game in the years since that one aspect is often overlooked: the All Blacks came back to be within one score of getting the lead back.
Scott's debut ended up being an outstanding game and he scored a fantastic try, running off a short ball by Liam Squire and then smartly stretching out to plant the ball over his head. It made the score 30-29 and, with 15 minutes to go, it seemed like the All Blacks were going to run away with a high-scoring but tactically dreadful victory.
Except the Irish knew this story all too well. There was no point sitting back and trying to defend their way out of this, so they absorbed the gut punch and got back to their feet. In a stunning last 10 minutes, they smashed the All Blacks right in the mouth, scoring a penalty and another try to seal a 40-29 win. Beauden's debut had been a historic win over Ireland. Scott's was now a historic loss.
The All Blacks got their revenge a fortnight later, in Dublin. Such was the intensity of the backlash and restoration of mana, the Irish media, who had (rightfully) crowed long and loud about the magnitude of the breaking of their 111-year duck against the All Blacks, suddenly turned into a hysterical mob. They claimed that the All Blacks had deliberately gone out to hurt their team in the 21-9 win, in which Beauden was awarded man of the match. They weren't wrong, but the reaction suggested more than a few of them had never seen a game of rugby before.
While this was going on, Jordie had been playing for Canterbury in the Mitre 10 Cup. Despite the boys having grown up in Taranaki and attending Francis Douglas Memorial College, Scott had originally followed the path of success that the Whitelock brothers, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw and so many others had taken by heading to Christchurch to maximise his rugby potential.
By the time Jordie left school, following his brother south seemed like the smartest option, and he enjoyed a provincial title win with Canterbury in his first season.
The brilliance of Beauden, and the hard-working potential of Scott, meant Jordie's pedigree was seemingly unquestionable. A fight for his services erupted between the Crusaders and Hurricanes, and ultimately it was the team of his father and brother that won. Jordie therefore holds an unusual place in modern rugby, as maybe the only young, talented player the Crusaders have gone after that they haven't got.
He debuted for the Hurricanes the next season as the fullback behind Beauden. The defending champion team's form was even better than the year before, leading the competition with 96 tries. Jordie bagged seven of them, but the team couldn't repeat its heroics of the previous year, as the Lions got their revenge in a semifinal in Johannesburg. Beauden and Jordie got to watch on as Scott's Crusaders went to Ellis Park the next week and won the final.
By then, the much-hyped British and Irish Lions tour was just around the corner. It had been 12 years since they'd last come to New Zealand, and the general consensus was they would receive another hiding like they had in 2005.
The confidence of the New Zealand fans was somewhat misplaced —after all, the Lions did contain a healthy contingent of Irishmen who had beaten the All Blacks just eight months previously. But it didn't help that it took them a good couple of weeks to stop playing like they'd just been introduced to one another five minutes before kick-off.
At the same time, the All Blacks had hastily arranged a warm-up game at Eden Park against Manu Samoa. It wasn't only the eventual 78-0 that showed the massive disparity between the teams, as a good number of the Samoans took the field in jerseys that clearly didn't fit. The test was also Jordie's first, like his brothers coming off the bench to make an impact straight away.
All the precocious talent he possessed was summed up with his first touch of the ball; after catching a high kick he immediately threw a behind-the-back flick pass infield. He was, however, part of the ever-crowded back three mix for the All Blacks — he would need to find a way past one of Ben Smith, Israel Dagg and Waisake Naholo, as well as the newly-capped Rieko Ioane.
The test series began in earnest at Eden Park, but the first match ended the way most had expected. Ioane scored two tries in the comfortable 30–15 win, and the series moved to Wellington where it was presumed the All Blacks would simply repeat the process and consign the 2017 Lions to the dustbin of rugby history.
It appeared that would be the case as the midweek side blew a healthy lead to draw 31-all with the Hurricanes, in a game where Jordie did his selection case no harm with a dominant display. He may have been thinking he'd be in line for a call-up in the third test — after all, the All Blacks had thought nothing of ringing the changes in the final test of the 2005 series to send a not-so-subtle message to the UK about what they thought of the supposed best of their talent.
But 25 minutes into the second test, with the scores locked at 3-3, everything changed. Sonny Bill Williams drove his shoulder into the face of Anthony Watson, leaving referee Jérôme Garcès with no option but to send him off. Never give a sucker a chance, because the Lions grabbed it and started playing like the team that thousands of fans from the home unions had travelled halfway around the world to see.
With four minutes to go, an extremely debatable penalty against prop Charlie Faumuina for tackling his opposite Kyle Sinckler in the air gave the Lions a shot from straight out in front.
Owen Farrell slammed it home to make it 24-21, and that was the end of an epic test match.
Of course, after any All Blacks loss comes the post-mortem, and with it the focus on the fact that never mind the seven shots Beauden had got, he'd also missed several.
Jordie got his call-up in the third test back at Eden Park, due to injuries to Waisake Naholo and Ioane. It marked the first time three brothers had played in the same test for the All Blacks, with Beauden starting and Scott coming off the bench. He started at fullback and, like the rest of the All Blacks, was watching on in horror after 12 minutes as the Lions looked like they would score out wide. Beauden came out of nowhere to grab an intercept and swing play 90 metres downfield, and then regrouped to put in a cross-kick for his brother to bat down and set up debutant Ngani Laumape for the opening try. After 35 minutes, the roles were reversed as Laumape threw a brilliant offload to set up Jordie for a try in the corner. Beauden's conversion, crucially, sailed wide. Like the second test, though, the third would be remembered for a moment of refereeing. It's inaccurate to call it a decision, because Romain Poite's actions with the scores locked at 15-all was more of a conference call. He'd originally pinged Lions hooker Ken Owens for playing the ball in an offside position off a kick-off with three minutes to go. However, in an unprecedented move, he conferred with his assistant Garcès in French and turned off his mic so no one could hear what they said. When he walked back to the mark, he awarded the All Blacks a scrum instead.
"The talk afterwards was focused on why Beauden hadn't taken a dropped goal.After all, they were only metres away from the goal posts."
At least 999 times out of 1000, the penalty would have stood. Beauden would have had a chance from about 43 metres out on an angle to the right of the posts to snatch a dramatic victory in what had turned into a pulsating test. Had he done so, it's unlikely much protestation about his goal kicking under pressure would have been heard since. But he didn't, because it was the one time in the history of rugby that a ref decided to change his mind. The game and series were drawn, and the stadium felt like a party where the cops had shown up and told everyone to go home.
After the return to health of Naholo and Ioane, and despite his impressive test in the decider that ended up not being a decider, Jordie wasn't required for the rest of the year's test schedule. Beauden and Scott played in one record 57-0 hiding of the Springboks in Albany, then one classic in Cape Town where the dormant rivalry between the two sides was shocked back to life with a 25-24 thriller.
Beauden was given the captaincy for a game against the Barbarians at Twickenham on the end-of-year tour that served more as a thinly veiled All Blacks trial.
New Zealand Rugby had contrived to stack the Barbarians with mostly fringe New Zealand players, including promising Canterbury and Crusaders first-five Richie Mo'unga.
After that game, he joined the All Blacks squad — and the talk around just who should be wearing the No10 jersey for test matches.
Also in the picture was Damian McKenzie, who had been Cruden's replacement at the Chiefs.
By the end of the 2018 Super Rugby season, that talk had become a serious debate between the merits of all three. Mo'unga had a stunning campaign as the Crusaders retained their championship from the year before. It didn't help Beauden that the Hurricanes exited the competition in the semifinals in a loss to Mo'unga's team, with many viewing it as a one-on-one showdown for the first-five position.
McKenzie had been the standout in a Chiefs side banged up with injuries, and somewhat surprisingly he got a start in the last test against a woeful French side that toured in June, with Beauden rested.
Whatever doubt there was over Beauden's form should have been firmly put to rest as the All Blacks destroyed the Wallabies over the course of a week in August, though. He scored one try in the 38-13 win in Sydney, and then the next weekend he notched up a stunning four tries in the 40-12 result.
But it only silenced the chatter for a couple of weeks. The next test, in Wellington against the Springboks, was to be another lightning rod for critics of Beauden — and now Jordie as well. Even though it all started so well.
After five minutes, Beauden set Jordie up for a slick try.
Then Aaron Smith scored to make it a comfortable lead and it looked like the All Blacks were going to dish out the same sort of hiding they'd given to the Wallabies.
But then, after 25 minutes, Jordie's impetuousness got the better of him, and he threw a quick lineout infield that took a wicked bounce in front of Ben Smith before popping into the hands of Willie le Roux, who scored next to the posts. He wasn't alone; Anton Lienart-Brown tossed an intercept for Cheslin Kolbe to scoot away and score from as well.
The All Blacks were more than staying in touch; in fact, they ended up scoring six tries to the Springboks' five in a high-octane test match. The problem was that Beauden was having possibly the worst night of his entire life with the boot, failing to convert Jordie, Codie Taylor and Ardie Savea's tries — with the last two being in positions that you'd expect a primary school-grade rep player to make without even blinking. His opposite, Handré Pollard, had kicked four conversions and a penalty.
But while that criticism was warranted — it's perfectly reasonable to single out missed conversions as game-changing moments — what happened in the dying stages of the game was a little bit different.
The All Blacks, down by 36-34 and in possession in the Springbok 22, pressed hard to find a winner. Their game plan was working perfectly, too. By smashing away at the line towards the left-hand side of the posts, they'd opened up a huge overlap on the right, where McKenzie and Ben Smith stood waiting to run in the winning try. Only winger Aphiwe Dyantyi, who had already scored two tries, was marking them.
Dyantyi knew it was now or never. The ball came from the ruck and, summoning every last energy reserve, he sprinted up and dived at McKenzie, who had hesitated at the winger's stunning speed off the mark. Dyantyi made a play at McKenzie's arm, knocked the ball loose, and the game was over.
The talk afterwards, while paying tribute to the Springboks, was focused on why Beauden hadn't taken a dropped goal. After all, they were only metres away from the goal posts. Those critics, though, neglected to note that he'd never once landed a dropped goal in his career. Plus, despite putting on a substandard performance for much of the test, the plan at the end was sound.
Going for a winning try when they were within penalty or dropped-goal deficit had worked the year before against the Wallabies in Dunedin, in which Beauden himself had scored between the posts for a 35-29 win.
So it was well within the realms of logic that the All Blacks would go for a play that they had practised, as opposed to handing the ball to a player who hadn't kicked a dropped goal before.
But the notion that he hadn't stepped up and taken the opportunity stuck with Beauden. He'd make sure by the end of the year that everyone would know he could drop a goal if his team needed to.
The fallout also affected Jordie. Seen as a liability after his rush of blood that led to the Boks' try, he slipped down the depth chart and only really just made it on to the end-of-year tour to Japan and the UK. He was given a chance to start in the test against Japan alongside a host of new faces in Hansen's expanded squad, only to see his first kick in play charged down and result in a Japanese try. It didn't have quite the same consequences as his last blooper, as the All Blacks eventually ran out winners 69-31.
Beauden, Scott and the rest of the All Blacks had already touched down in London for what had, a year before, been billed as the heavyweight clash between the two top sides in the world.
The All Blacks found themselves down 15-0 after 25 minutes on a sodden Twickenham turf. It had been raining all week in London, and the conditions (as well as the low expectations) suited the English just perfectly. After McKenzie pulled a try back, Beauden knew the time was right to exercise a bit of free licence to show that, if needed, he could split the uprights any time he liked. Despite the driving rain, Beauden called for a pass from the ruck around 30 metres out. His drop kick sailed straight through the sticks, and was a vital score in a game that ended 16-15 to the All Blacks.
Just to prove a point, Beauden kicked another one the next weekend in Dublin. In fact, he scored all the All Blacks' points in that game — which they lost 16-9.
Beauden, Scott and a number of others could add the unwanted tag of being the first All Blacks to lose to Ireland twice, alongside being the first ones to do it at all.
Following a week of inquisition by the media travelling with the team and back home, it was almost a relief that the season would be over after what would prove to be an easy win in Rome against Italy. Jordie found himself back in the team, starting on the right wing. It marked the first time that all three brothers were in the starting line-up, and they'd make sure Smiley, who had travelled to watch the boys play, would have something to brag about.
Extracted from Brothers in Black: The long history of brotherhood in New Zealand rugby by Jamie Wall. Published by Allen & Unwin. RRP$36.99. Out Tuesday, August 6.