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Don't expect Beauden Barrett to do it all himself

By Hamish Bidwell
Beauden Barrett of the Blues looks on during the round six Super Rugby Pacific match between Chiefs and Blues at FMG Stadium Waikato, on April 01, 2023, in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

The knock on Ngani Laumape was that he didn’t communicate well.

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As far as the second five-eighth’s All Blacks aspirations were concerned, I was always told by people in and around the team that Laumape didn’t do a good enough job as Beauden Barrett’s eyes and ears.

Barrett relied on those outside him to help him see attacking opportunities. If they called something then – without question – he did it. Barrett told me that himself.

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He’d relied on Conrad Smith in his earlier years. If Smith said it was on to run or cross kick or catch and pass, then that’s what Barrett did. Cory Jane was another huge asset to him in that era.

As an aside, I don’t remember those Hurricanes teams that Barrett and Laumape were members of playing too badly.

The pair played behind plenty of beaten forward packs over the years, but invariably found ways to remain effective. Even if Laumape wasn’t the same resource to Barrett that Smith had been.

Now we’re all wringing our hands a little over Barrett’s form at the Blues. His option-taking is in question and there are suggestions he lacks confidence.

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Well, maybe he’s just not getting any direction from those outside him?

Players can’t be exceptional forever. Particularly the runners, as Barrett predominantly was for a long time.

There has been, in every team Barrett’s played for, an obvious inclination to expect him to conjure something from nothing. To weave through or around defenders, to grubber in behind and regather or land an outrageous kick in the lap of a wing on the other side of the field.

The point is, even his teammates have appeared to leave it up to Barrett. To offer no instructions or options; to simply expect the man to work miracles on his own.

If Barrett does lack any confidence, it might be because of the battering he’s taken through having to beat teams by himself.

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So where are his coaches and teammates in all this? What help or hindrance are they?

I’ve never been a fan of Barrett at fullback and I always felt taking goal kicking off him diminished his standing. A first five-eighth has to feel he enjoys the absolute belief of those around him and I believe Barrett’s sense of that has been undermined.

But I also don’t think he is a bad player or a spent force. I just think he has been let down.

So, before we write him off, let’s wonder aloud about his teammates and his coaches. Let’s question what they are or aren’t doing and how that has contributed to his performances.

I bet Barrett would be as good as ever if he still had teammates of Smith and Jane’s ilk, along with clear direction from the coaching box.

Laumape running off his shoulder wouldn’t hurt either.

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