Beauden Barrett is big here in Japan. Along with Sonny Bill Williams, Barrett is the one All Black many of the locals want to see and he did his profile no harm with a starring role against the All Blacks in the victory over the Springboks which began his side's World Cup defence.
Four years ago, Dan Carter was such an influential figure in the All Blacks' march to consecutive titles that they really couldn't do with him from the quarter-finals on and while there is perhaps more depth in the current squad, Barrett now comes close to being in the same position Carter was in.
As the tournament progresses to the knockout stages and the pressure comes on, Barrett's ability to switch seamlessly from fullback to first-five and back will become increasingly important, as will his near endless creativity.
The 28-year-old, who will join the Blues next year, has played 79 tests and so has crucial experience to go with his pace, tactical awareness and ability to change the game with a piece of magic.
One of the most surprising moments in his side's 23-13 win over the Boks in Yokohama was during the second half when he kicked the ball through on the right touchline and it wouldn't sit up for him because normally he has an almost supernatural ability to get it to do what he wants.
He is also the eldest of three brothers in the team, and, as he and Scott and Jordie faced the media in Beppu today ahead of their team's next match against Canada in nearby Oita on Wednesday, Beauden's profile was naturally a topic of conversation.
"You kind of know about it I guess," utility back Jordie, 22, said. "You turn up at the airport and they're all screaming Beauden's name and Scott and I are looking at each other and thinking what's going on? I think it's pretty cool. I think everyone in the team knows there's a bit of expectation around him."
This is a special time for the Barrett brothers and their extended family in Taranaki and beyond. The boys have played six tests together and may do so again soon as coach Steve Hansen juggles his squad to mitigate against the effects of playing two games in four days – the All Blacks play Namibia in Tokyo four days after Canada.
"They're very proud," Beauden said. "Dad is sitting back home checking the weather forecast wherever we are. A few days out [from Boks match] he was telling us there wouldn't be any rain on Saturday night so I was quite hopeful for that. They're very excited. Dad is coming over and bringing a little tour party with him and it will be great to see him. Mum is happy staying at home and watching on TV. It's a hugely proud moment for our family and we've got a big support crew back home- extended family and so on."
"I never really thought we'd all be here," Scott, 25, a lock who scored a try against the Boks, said. It's a long way from the family farm in Pungarehu in coastal Taranaki.
"I guess in the backyard you'd joke and say 'he's got a kick to win the World Cup' – you'd create scenarios like that … you have to pinch yourself that you're here right now.
"For me it's been a big goal for the last 12 months and so to be here and especially get the first game underway, it's good to get a result and crack into it," he added. "There were a lot of nerves and anticipation up to this point but now that we're going game by game it's exciting."
Beauden, a keen golfer who is planning to play a round in Beppu during his team's day off tomorrow, revealed he has never been paired with either of his brothers as roommates, and that spending time with them on such a stage was never something to be taken for granted.
His comments appeared to resonate with the large Japanese media contingent here and should among a wider audience, too. It won't harm his growing reputation any.
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