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Blues provide update on Beauden Barrett's latest head knock

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Blues star Beauden Barrett isn’t likely to miss much game time after picking up another head knock following his return from a potentially serious concussion sustained late last year.

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That’s the verdict from Blues head coach Leon MacDonald, who confirmed on Monday that Barrett’s latest injury blow isn’t as serious as feared by many.

The two-time World Rugby Player of the Year left the field early in the second half of his side’s 32-25 Super Rugby Pacific win over the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday due to a head injury sustained while tackling Highlanders centre Fetuli Paea.

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The match was only Barrett’s second game, and first start, since his All Blacks campaign ended early last year as a result of a concussion he received during last November’s test against Ireland in Dublin.

Barrett revealed earlier this year that he had considered retirement as a result of that head knock, sparking fears over the severity of his latest injury.

However, MacDonald moved to alleviate those concerns while speaking to media ahead of his side’s clash with Moana Pasifika at Mt Smart Stadium on Tuesday.

“There’s a mandatory stand down period if you get a bang to the head, which he’s obviously going to sit out, but I think the early signs are positive for him,” MacDonald said.

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“Other than a mangled up face, he’s come out pretty well with a pretty sore neck. He’s not too happy about that as well, obviously, but he’s looking pretty good at the moment.”

Barrett hasn’t been named in the team to play Moana Pasifika at Mt Smart Stadium in the rare mid-week match, which was rescheduled due to Covid concerns earlier in the year.

MacDonald added that the 30-year-old All Blacks centurion won’t be available for his side’s rematch against their cross-town rivals at Eden Park on Saturday either due to Super Rugby Pacific’s mandatory 10-day stand down period for concussions.

Nevertheless, the Blues boss is optimistic about Barrett’s return to action after having taken a cautious approach when he returned from All Blacks duty near the start of the season.

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“There’s always concern with any player that gets a head knock. You don’t want to see anyone with concussion because it’s not a nice injury to have,” MacDonald, who endured many concussions concerns of his own as a player, said.

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“We were extra cautious in the way that we brought Beaudy back. We didn’t push him in early, we gave him extra time just to make sure he was really comfortable and was completely gone and he felt really good.

“Even this injury now, it’s not a major one. He doesn’t have concussion symptoms as such, so we just keep on doing what we’re doing. We want to look after our players’ welfare.

“Ultimately, we want him playing a long career, not just next week, so you’ve got to look at the big picture and definitely we’ll take that same stance.”

Barrett’s unavailability for the short-term future leaves MacDonald and the Blues without two of their three first-choice first-fives after Harry Plummer was ruled out for the season with a dislocated shoulder following his side’s round three loss to the Chiefs.

As such, Stephen Perofeta has been called in to start at No 10 against Moana Pasifika on Tuesday, with rookie playmaker Jock McKenzie primed to make his Super Rugby Pacific debut from the bench.

MacDonald acknowledged that those injuries will test the depth of his squad, but he remained confident that those selected – especially the players who have had limited or no experience at Super Rugby level – will acquit themselves well.

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“I suppose that’s the biggest challenge as a coach is multiple injuries in the same position, especially critical positions like first-five,” MacDonald said.

“Harry’s out for this season with his shoulder, and obviously we’ve got Beauden out as well, so there’s two of our three contracted 10s. Every team’s got their own challenges.

“I know Aaron will be looking at his squad saying, ‘There’s a couple of positions where we’re feeling a little bit vulnerable as well’, but that’s just part and parcel of what we’re dealing with at the moment.

“This is a good opportunity, I think. One of the things that you can’t afford a lot of in this competition is to really go deep into your squad and give them access to game time, because at some point, you’re going to need them or you want them to develop.

“We’ve talked a lot about depth in New Zealand rugby and this has forced our hand, it’s forced Moana’s hand, and it’s forced our hand to look probably a little bit further than we normally would, but that’s really exciting.

“The buzz that the guys have got when we named the team, we’ve got debutants as well and that’s a big moment for their families and them to get out there.”

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