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Opinion

Beauden Barrett at No. 10 can make the All Blacks feared again

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Roar Rookie
28th November, 2020
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Beauden Barrett was recently described as an “afterthought”, the World Rugby player of the year in 2016 and 2017 having now now been surpassed by Richie Mo’unga at No. 10 and arguably his brother Jordie at No. 15.

But that’s just not true. Barrett is a generational talent who transcends positions. He made his name at No. 10 and should be returned to the position.

Barrett changed the game as a No. 10. He inherited the jersey from arguably the greatest conventional flyhalf in the history of the game, Daniel Carter. But Barrett has been and continues to be a completely different player. He offers a far greater running threat in broken play than any other international flyhalf.

Beauden Barrett in action for the All Blacks against New Zealand

Beauden Barrett (Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

It’s hard to argue that Jonny Sexton, Handre Pollard, George Ford, Owen Farrell, Finn Russell or Dan Biggar offer incision through the line as Barrett does. Richie Mo’unga gets close for the Crusaders on occasion but has yet to consistently show it for the All Blacks.

Barrett is not perfect. His goal kicking can be inconsistent, which becomes a bigger problem when games are tight and a reliable kicker is needed. But beyond this it’s hard to pinpoint a weakness in his game as a Test-quality flyhalf.

The threat his running game poses grants him a split second extra to deliver raking passes to his outside backs. He consistently delivers excellent cross-field kicks to capitalise on narrow defensive formations. And he scores a lot of tries – look at how he destroyed Australia at Eden Park in 2018 with a four-try masterclass, perhaps his finest performance in a black jersey.

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Mo’unga is the elephant in the room. He has clearly been the form No. 10 in Super Rugby for the Crusaders over the last three years. He’s taken the breath away with some of his Super Rugby performances. He’s capable of genius, like his pinpoint cross-field kick for Will Jordan’s winning try in the 2020 North versus South game. In any other era he would be the first-choice flyhalf for the All Blacks for the next four years.

However, it’s been two years with Mo’unga at No. 10 and, if we’re honest, he has underwhelmed in all but a couple of games against the Wallabies. He remains a world-class flyhalf, better than all but perhaps Pollard. But Barrett is the world’s best player with an X factor no other back in the world has.

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Contrary to popular opinion, he is New Zealand’s best option at No. 15 if they want to play a dual playmaker system. His vision and ability to scythe through the smallest gap was evident even in the All Blacks 47-26 defeat in Perth last year when his try very much kept the Kiwis in the game.

But the last two years have been deeply disappointing from an All Blacks perspective. Losing both the Rugby Championship and World Cup in 2019 and suffering an unprecedented loss to Argentina in 2020 have diminished the aura of this team. Put simply, anyone now believes, and with some justification, that speed off the line, discipline and ferocity at the breakdown can defeat New Zealand.

Many things need to change if New Zealand are to recover their fear factor. But the easiest one is to restore Beauden Barrett to the No. 10 jersey permanently, giving him the keys to the kingdom and building everything they do around him. Otherwise, they risk an underwhelming 2023 World Cup, not to mention wasting the most effective attacking weapon they’ve had in the last decade.

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