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'He's got a long way to go': How Barrett compares to NZ's top No 10s

By Sam Smith
Dan Carter (left) and Beauden Barrett at All Blacks training in 2015 (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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Beauden Barrett became just the 11th player to notch up 100 tests for the All Blacks over the weekend, scoring two intercept tries in his side’s 55-17 win over Wales in Cardiff.

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He also became just the second flyhalf to achieve the feat, after Dan Carter earned his 100th cap against England in 2013.

The exceptional achievement has unsurprisingly reignited the debate about New Zealand’s top No 10s of all time, with the likes of Carlos Spencer, Andrew Mehrtens, Grant Fox and even Aaron Cruden all regularly mentioned as contenders for the high-ranking spots.

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Where does Beauden Barrett rank among NZ’s best first fives?
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Where does Beauden Barrett rank among NZ’s best first fives?

Carter, with the most caps and most points scored of any of the NZ pivots, is widely considered the best to have donned the jersey thanks to the perfect combination of X-factor and cool-headedness that he brought to the All Blacks.

Others tend to lean one way or the other, with Spencer one of the game’s greatest entertainers of all time, and Fox perhaps the most accurate kicker of the lot.

Where Barrett ranks is certainly up for debate, but his 100 caps and back-to-back World Rugby Player of the Year awards in 2016 and 2017 certainly push him near the top of the queue.

For two Super Rugby centurions, however, it’s still too early to say, given that Barrett has plenty left to give on the rugby field.

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“I think he’s right in the mix and he’s still got time to go,” former Blues hooker James Parsons said on the latest episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.

“When I texted him during the week to wish him well for his 100th, I said ‘You’ve dedicated yourself to your craft and you’ll be remembered as a great All Blacks for that’. He’s made a lot of choices along the way to make him the very best player in the world a number of times and continues to be at that high level.

“And he’s just not done. It’s a hard conversation to have at the moment because I think there’s still chapters to the story, just like there was for DC and more excitement and fuel for this debate.”

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Bryn Hall, who toured with the All Blacks in 2018, agreed that Barrett ranks highly on any all-time lists, but that it was a debate that couldn’t be settled until the 30-year-old ultimately hangs up his boots.

“He’s got a long way to go,” Hall said. “He’s been there so long, considering he’s played 100 test matches. But Jip’s right, he’s right up there.

“You’ve got Dan Carter, who we don’t need to talk about, the achievements that he’s had, arguably he’s the greatest rugby player that’s ever played in the world. What Beaudy has done, he’s a two-time player of the year. Those are achievements that are done at a pretty high, world-class set-up, so the fact that he’s done that twice – when he was playing 10 as well – you’ve got to add that into the discussion.

“And for the fact of longevity. Any time you can play 100 test matches, whether it be for a time at 15, coming off the bench, being able to play 100 test matches and that consistency to be in that All Blacks group for a long period of time, that adds to it as well.”

While the debate of where Barrett falls on the historical overall rankings is an interesting one, it’s less relevant than the current ongoing conversation surrounding who’s the better fit for the No 10 jersey in the current All Blacks set-up, with Barrett and Richie Mo’unga seemingly on level pegging.

As such, Hall is hopeful that the two will continue to bring out the best of each other.

“I think the best is still to come and we’re going to continue to have these discussions of him and Richie moving forward but I think having Richie there to be able to have the competition aspect, it’s going to keep bringing the best out of Beaudy.

“If we can get test matches like we do on the weekend, and you’ve got Richie able to be in behind him to try and bring the best out of Beaudy and it goes vice-versa both ways, it’s only going to help New Zealand Rugby and for our bid to win a World Cup in a couple of years time.”

While Carter called time on his test career after helping the All Blacks to their third World Cup win in 2015, he continued to play rugby to the highest level until 2020 – when he was 38-year-old. As such, even if Barrett does finish up playing test rugby following the 2023 World Cup, it could be a long time before the All Blacks pivot finishes up his professional career.

As such, the debate is set to rage on for many years to come.

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