Beauden Barrett’s Blues debut can’t come soon enough.
Scheduled for June 14, against the Hurricanes of all people, it promises to be the rugby event of the season to date.
I’m not someone prone to favourites. In fact, I’ve worked hard to dislike all athletes, coaches, and administrators equally.
But some people are just so exciting, so gifted and so much better than their peers that you can’t help but love to watch them play. Beauden Barrett is that person for me.
Granted, I’m not a fan of his New Zealand Rugby (NZR) salary, nor his extended holidays.
The great and the good of world rugby rack their brains trying to work out how to engage better with their existing fans and attract new ones and the answer has always been simple; just put your best players on the park.
The notion of being paid not to play, as Barrett has this year, or to reward your highest-earners with a lucrative sabbatical, as Barrett has in his contract, is nonsense. And also a sure way to send NZR broke.
What makes more business sense is to put your best and brightest talents out on display.
Well, that day is almost at hand, with Barrett – in a nice marketing ploy – set to start for his new franchise against the old one.
Can’t wait for the likes of TJ Perenara and Dane Coles to wish Barrett a cheery welcome and then niggle him for the rest of the game.
New Zealand is blessed with many fine footballers and maybe even one or two great ones. But none is the box office talent that Barrett is and his return to action is exactly the boost Super Rugby Aotearoa needed.
It should also underline the fact Barrett is, far and away, this country’s best first five-eighth.
If I were King, he would start every All Blacks test from here until the end of his career. That doesn’t mean I’m blind to the charms of Richie Mo’unga, just that I believe Barrett is better.
I don’t want to hear about Aaron Cruden. He’s had his time – 50 tests worth in fact – and going back to him serves no purpose.
The All Blacks have a Rugby World Cup to win in three years’ time and the last one showed us how critical Barrett will be to that effort.
It’s a credit to his skill, and willingness to put-in for the team, that Barrett was able to excel from fullback. But putting he and Mo’unga on the park together never really worked and there’s no disgrace in now discarding that tactic.
Have Damian McKenzie at fullback, though, with Barrett calling the shots from 10 and the All Blacks would then have a dual playmaking threat that few, if any, teams would be able to combat.
But that’s all down the track. For now, it’s hard to see too much test rugby on the horizon.
What we do have to look forward to, though, is a bit of homegrown Super Rugby, starting with the Highlanders against the Chiefs on June 13.
As anticipated as that clash might be, by the time it rolls around, it’s not a patch on the game the next day.
Beauden Barrett playing against the Hurricanes is a truly mouth-watering prospect and one that should illustrate just what we missed while the first five-eighth had his early-season holiday.
Games are simply better for Barrett’s involvement and, such is the man’s skill and sense of occasion, that you just know he’ll put on a superb show come June 14.
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