All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has one of the hardest jobs in rugby trying to fit all the talent at his disposal into one team.
Every time he names a squad there are invariably a number of players that are unlucky not to be starting or playing at all. But one of the biggest problems that had been developing all Super Rugby season was the form of his fly-halves.
Richie Mo’unga steered the Crusaders to a third consecutive Super Rugby title and was widely seen as the best 10 in the competition. Meanwhile, Beauden Barrett, the two-time World Player of the Year, took the Hurricanes very close to beating the eventual champions in the semi-final.
With arguably the two best fly-halves in the world vying to start for their country, questions have been asked throughout the season as to how they can both play for the All Blacks.
The only solution that many fans could come up with was playing Barrett at full-back, which is what Hansen has opted for against the Springboks in Wellington this Saturday.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) July 24, 2019
With the bulk of Crusaders players missing last weekend’s Test against Argentina in Buenos Aires, Barrett started at 10, but the return of Mo’unga means it was high time for Hansen to try this out before the World Cup.
A lot of All Blacks fans on social media are delighted with this decision, as it provides two elite playmakers in the backline. Mo’unga is perhaps a stronger kicker at 10, while Barrett comfortably has the pace to play in the back three and could look dangerous in the outside channels. It is a backline that many have been campaigning for all season, and feel it could be lethal if it clicks.
The All Blacks respond to the Springboks naming their A team. https://t.co/B94tN581Tr
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 24, 2019
However, with the World Cup less than two months away, this is the time to experiment, and trying out the Mo’unga-Barrett 10-15 combination now may pay off in September. This is what the fans have said:
??? this team is red hot! ??? Richie on 1??0?? and Beauden on 1??5?? saw that coming from a mile away ?? that combo is too good to resist ? https://t.co/Zn9m9ypEEc
— The White Oreo ?? (@Doc_Torio) July 24, 2019
Beauden at 15, interesting!!? https://t.co/sM577m4ec8
— Ntsika Zimema (@Ntsido_Z) July 24, 2019
Goodness me that backline ???????. Beauden coming in as the first receiver in 6/7th phase?? https://t.co/5hIcNVX08c
— Nqobile Madela (@nqobzasheen) July 24, 2019
Moung'a and Barrett starting. A two-pronged attack it is,add Bender too
Sonny Bill is back, as is Read. Bring this one already https://t.co/J80a8hHtzE
— Njau (@_martinjoroge_) July 24, 2019
— Gazzanay (@nonimuriuki) July 24, 2019
BB at 15 and Richie at 10 ??????
— Christopher Logan (@CLCourtney82) July 24, 2019
Nice team!!! Looks like it has great balance. Richie at 10 and Beauden at 15 looks like a pretty good combo to me. Going to be real interesting to see this 15 this Sat!!!
— Charlie (@GSMCHARLIE) July 24, 2019
Richie Mo'Unga – 10??
Barrett – 15??
Boks won't see what hit them?. https://t.co/2y0G5PzxB2
— mass. (@ordinarymanmasi) July 24, 2019
Richie at 10 beaudy at 15 ? https://t.co/TTD1gFOTXU
— Rith Clegane (@_harithaiman) July 25, 2019
Imagine having a team so deep you could displace Barrett. The flip side of course is Mo’unga certainly earned it with the season he had
— Mr Potato S Thompson Head (@deluded_jim) July 24, 2019
Playing Barrett at full-back is not a completely novel idea for the All Blacks, as he is accustomed to the position. It has not been uncommon for Hansen in the past to move Barrett to 15 in the latter stages of the game when bringing Mo’unga on.
Likewise, he had to make do with playing there at the beginning of his career when Dan Carter wore the black jersey. However, this is the first time he has started at full-back since 2013 for the All Blacks.
The Springboks have named a very strong side, as the teams face off for the final time before their pool stage match in the World Cup. Furthermore, Wellington was also the venue of South Africa’s huge victory against the All Blacks last year, meaning there is a lot riding on this match for both teams.
Some may say that this is not the game to experiment in while equally, some will say that this is the perfect time to try new things under the most pressure before the World Cup.
Mo’unga and Barrett are both world-class and many fans have got what they wish for, but the players must now repay Hansen’s faith in them.
WATCH: The All Blacks clinch a first series win over Springboks in South Africa in 58 years, but they haven’t toured there since then outside of RWC or Rugby Championship
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