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Beauden Barrett delivers glowing review of 'freakish' Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

By Alex McLeod
(Photos / Getty Images)

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Blues star Beauden Barrett has described new teammate Roger Tuivasa-Sheck as a “freakish” player as they duo prepare to lineup alongside each other for the first time.

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Tuivasa-Sheck has been named to start at second-five, one place outside of first-five Barrett, for Saturday’s Super Round clash against the Fijian Drua at AAMI Park in Melbourne.

It will be the first time the two marquee players will start a match for the Blues together since Tuivasa-Sheck’s high-profile move to rugby union from the NRL ahead of this season, and Barrett said that’s a prospect he’s “very excited” for.

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“I think we were all hanging out to see him with ball in hand last weekend, but it was a D-Day for Rog and the team in the last few minutes or 20 minutes,” Barrett said on Thursday of Tuivasa-Sheck’s fleeting bench cameo against the Crusaders last Friday.

“Hopefully we can give him plenty of ball and see what he can do.”

The Blues’ groundbreaking 27-23 win over the Crusaders in Christchurch a week ago was Tuivasa-Sheck’s first match for the Auckland-based franchise since recovering from a shoulder injury sustained against the Chiefs early last month.

The 28-year-old midfielder was barely sighted with ball in hand as the Blues spent the final minutes of the match relentlessly defending their lead, meaning this week’s match against the Drua is his first real chance to stamp his authority on proceedings.

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Despite having only played three Super Rugby Pacific matches, many foresee Tuivasa-Sheck as an All Black selection later this year, and chatter about his ability, work ethic and professionalism from his colleagues have done little to quell those projections.

Blues wing Caleb Clarke and head coach Leon MacDonald are among those who have gone on record this season to wax lyrical about the 2018 Dally M Medallist, and Barrett added to that chorus of superlatives.

“His physical attributes are freakish,” the two-time World Rugby Player of the Year said.

“I’ve seen him do things that I haven’t seen before on the field, one-on-ones and things like that, but I’ve been really impressed with his professionalism and questions he asks and how much he actually knows about footy.

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“I think a lot of people would be surprised about that. He’s clearly been watching a fair bit whilst playing for the Warriors and the Kiwis, so he’s already picked it up pretty quick. I’ve been impressed.

“He has a lot more time than, typically, those would playing 12. They’re making transition, and he is a bit more calculated and makes good decisions out there rather than just being a pure athlete with ball in hand. He’s, tactically, right up there.”

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Not only will it be the first time that Barrett and Tuivasa-Sheck start a Blues match together this weekend, but it will also be the first time the former has captained the side since arriving from the Hurricanes two years ago.

Barrett has been handed the captaincy reins after MacDonald opted to give incumbent skipper Dalton Papalii a well-deserved week off following an immense performance against the Crusaders.

Barrett is hopeful of emulating Papalii’s performances as a leader after having previously captained the Hurricanes and All Blacks.

“He’s been going awesome, he’s been leading us really well, and, ultimately, I just want to lead by playing well,” Barrett said.

“I’m well-supported with the other leaders and the coaches in this group, so I’m just enjoying playing footy.”

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