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Beauden Barrett is clearly the All Blacks’ best option at fullback

By Finn Morton
Beauden Barrett of New Zealand gestures during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between France and New Zealand at Stade de France on September 8, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

All Blacks fans aren’t always loyal to their players. For supporters who expect so much from their rugby heroes, it’s almost impossible for them to keep the faith when the going gets tough.

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Time after time, we see New Zealanders turn on their own when rugby results don’t fall their way. But the intensity, scrutiny and expectation on these mere mortals goes up another few notches at a Rugby World Cup.

The All Blacks are expected to win, always. There are no ifs, buts or maybes, the fans draw the line of failure below the familiar feelings of victory and triumph.

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But that didn’t happen this time around against France in Paris. For the first time ever, the All Blacks lost a Rugby World Cup pool match and New Zealanders began to pin the blame on players.

After 18 months of disastrous results, which included losses to Ireland, South Africa and Argentina, last Friday’s defeat has seen Kiwis hit the panic button.

Changes must be made, and former New Zealand cricketer and rugby commentator Ian Smith wants Damian McKenzie back in the team.

“I certainly have got to have Damian McKenzie in there,” Ian Smith said on SENZ.

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“I keep going back to the commentators saying ‘these guys are on their knees’… if you’re on your knees defensively that’s where it hurts, and who’s the best stepper in terms of exposing that? Damian McKenzie is clearly the best stepper.

“If Will Jordan is at fullback we’ll see 50 per cent of the kicking from the back that we’ve been witnessing so far.”

Out with the old and in with the new, some supporters would agree that All Blacks selectors need to move on from two-time World Rugby Player of the Year Beauden Barrett.

With the Ferrari that is Damian McKenzie waiting in the garage, of course, it’s tempting to grab the keys.

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But remember, Damian McKenzie and Will Jordan were both poor in Bledisloe II in Dunedin. Jordan failed to fire at fullback, and McKenzie struggled to make an impact from first five.

Barrett kicked the ball a lot on a scorching night at Stade de France. The Rugby World Cup winner would’ve been placed inside the AFL’s top 15 for average kicks in a match by any player with that one display.

Fed up with the mixed night off the boot, one fan even sent a text into Ian Smith’s show saying that they’d be “turning the TV off” if Barrett kicked at all against Namibia.

Barrett has retained his spot at fullback, and there’s a lot resting on this game for the veteran in the eyes of fans.

But let’s all just take a deep breath. Inhale, now hold for five seconds and exhale.

It’s easy to obsess over something when it doesn’t go to plan. The All Blacks and Les Bleus were locked in a kicking duel last week and France won.

But Barrett did what every other fullback in Test rugby would do.

If anything, on a humid night in Paris, Barrett had an ace up his sleeve by sending unpredictable torpedoes either towards the touchline or to an opponent. It seemed to trouble the French at times, too.

But has anyone looked at what else Barrett did? Watch the tape or crunch the numbers and you’ll see that the fullback was actually one of the All Blacks’ best.

Barrett led the way in attack with a game-high 24 carries for 123 metres. No player on either team bested the playmaker, who also made at least as many tackles as the likes of Anton Lienert-Brown and France No. 15 Thomas Ramos.

Before Mark Telea’s try inside the opening two minutes, Barrett was also seen telling his teammates that the ball was going wide. The fullback got the ball at second receiver and set up the wing with a cross-field kick.

Barrett is also the best backfield defender in the world. With simply electric pace off the mark, the 32-year-old has almost singlehandedly saved the All Blacks from scoreboard pain – but there’s no stat for that. Just take a look at his foot race with Antoine Dupont near the sideline last week.

Remember that World Cups are won or lost by moments of brilliance. Experience can’t be bought, but rather forged within the crucible that is Test rugby.

In a tight Test against the likes of Ireland, South Africa or France, Barrett is so obviously the All Blacks’ best option at fullback that this shouldn’t really be a debate or talking point.

It would be great to see McKenzie come into the team on a regular basis, but it won’t be a straight swap for Barrett.

The foundations of the All Blacks’ legacy is built on passion, unity and mahi. If you really want to get behind the All Blacks at this World Cup, then keep the faith and show your support.

These players are a long way from home, and the last thing they need is more criticism.

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Comments

77 Comments
R
Ruby 272 days ago

Anyone who thinks Will Jordan should have the 15 jersey doesn't understand rugby in the slightest. Of the squad members I'd only trust Beauden, DMac and Jordie to play Fullback.

T
Tee 275 days ago

Back 3 should be Leicester, will Jordan and telea/Stevenson. Bb or damo of the bench. Can't remember the last time beuaden even made a break.

T
Tahi 275 days ago

Those who follow Super Rugby and the ABs know BB is a busted flush. The Blues experiment hasn’t worked… moving between 10 and 15. Jordan is an excellent FB and it’s games like Namibia where he needs to be given the chance. But Foster and Schmitt are vision-free zones. Hopeless loyalty to a one dimensional player.

D
Dave 275 days ago

Yep bb still has a lot to offer definitely a good bench cover, still can't see Mackenzie in a test jersey every time he just gets thumped by the opposition and sat down as an easy tackle option before he gets anywhere. Looking forward to seeing Leicester on the wing, hopefully can live up to his track record.

G
G 275 days ago

Jordan and McKenzie were playing with only 3 other starters and that team had never played together before. BB gets the benefit of the top team, crowds mounga and makes so many poor decisions. We need to accept he is not the great player he was 5 years ago.

Just two good crosskicks (which McKenzie can also do in his sleep) are not enough for BB to be in the team...desperate times now

J
Jon 275 days ago

But remember, Damian McKenzie and Will Jordan were both poor in Bledisloe II in Dunedin
Damian and Jordan were both v good in B2. You should perhaps review that game.

B
Brett 275 days ago

Yeah let’s keep playing fosters mates like Taylor our 2 aging locks who we see the best of sometimes infact you could argue foster has looked after and given them special treatment anyone that’s been around since 2015. They keep talking about how important and valuable these players are but they the very ones that are bereaved of ideas when things are no longer working

A
Andrew 275 days ago

There are two Beauden Barretts?

P
Pecos 275 days ago

No, he's yesterday's man. The Crusaders combo of Mounga/Jordan is far more dynamic, forward thinking, & in sync. All Barrett does is relegate Richie to a bits & pieces role instead of allowing him to drive the car. Hence, when the ABs are under pressure, confusion & scrambly errors set in. The forwards are left to grasp at straws.

A cut & paste backline will always produce a cut & paste performance. On the rare occasion all the dots may join up. But it's too hit & miss imo. One needs only look at how the Crusaders backs took Barrett & the Blues apart in SRP SF to see the winning formula. In the SRP F, against a rampant Chiefs backline the Mounga/Jordan combo dug deep. Add in Lester Faianganuku & the ABs would have the 3 best performers in their positions. Beaudin would be great bench cover.

S
Shayne 275 days ago

BB should be on bench Reiko on the wing where he belongs Lester at center Allgood, but no let's keep playing fosters mates .Go Fiji and France

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