'His best game for 2 years': Beauden Barrett silenced doubts over All Black fullback role
The debate over whether Will Jordan or Beauden Barrett should be handed the All Blacks No 15 jersey was not settled on Saturday night as both players put up sensational performances against the Springboks.
On the right wing Will Jordan was phenomenal in the aerial battle, whilst he also roamed the field to pop up on both sides on attack. He set up the first try to Aaron Smith after cutting back upfield for a line break and bagged the key try in the second half to restore a 30-15 lead.
But starting fullback Beauden Barrett was equally outstanding, providing the link pass over to the top to Jordan in the first place in the lead up to Smith’s try, while coming up with the perfect chip kick to Jordan for his try.
Barrett’s work in the backfield was exceptional cleaning up kicks and relieving pressure, and his kicking game out-of-hand was extremely accurate and found the space in behind the Springboks defence multiple times.
Former All Black halfback Justin Marshall praised Jordan’s performance as ‘complete’ on the wing but reiterated that the Crusader can play fullback and it would still be worth giving him a run there.
“It’s not so much a criticism of anybody else that’s playing fullback, it’s just that they haven’t given him an opportunity [at 15]” he told Sky Sport’s The Breakdown.
“But Ian Foster said it in his post-game interview, didn’t he? Hey, he’s not a bad winger.
“I thought his adaption to being able to have a license to roam, when he came across for the try that Shannon Frizell scored, he came off the right wing, right across to the other side to get himself into the game.
“He chased everything down, that was a complete winger’s performance and there is not many wingers in the world that could play a game like that.”
Former All Black fullback and wing Jeff Wilson said that the performance at Mt Smart by Barrett was his best in a long time in a black jersey.
After a starring role against Los Pumas last week in Mendoza, Barrett was even better against the Boks.
Wilson argued having Barrett at the back relieves some of the first reciever duties off Mo’unga while they are safe knowing that the No 10 position is covered should injury strike.
“This was more about Beauden Barrett [than Jordan], this was his best game I believe in the All Black jersey for about two years,” Wilson said.
“In terms of controlling the backfield, his timing when stepping into first five, and also his connection with the other players around him.
“All of a sudden he was playing that role, I’ll say it, another pivot. He was getting himself in the right position.
“It doesn’t mean we are not adaptable in what we can do. If we wanted to change the game and see Will Jordan at fullback, we can do that mid-game.
“With their selections, they were really comfortable if they lost Richie Mo’unga, Beauden was going to be their guy at No 10.”
Former All Black loose forward Stephen Bates said that Jordan may have cemented himself as a winger for the All Blacks with how good he was.
Tinkering with a working combination may not be in the best interests of the side.
“There is a lot of competition around the wings, there is a lot of them,” he said.
“He was that good that he has almost put himself there. You can’t get rid of him, he was that good.”
If Jordan remains the first choice right wing, that didn’t bode well for the other outside backs in the squad according to Wilson.
With two Bledisloe Tests remaining and a one-off game against the Springboks at Twickenham, the All Blacks do not have time to keep experimenting.
“Clearly Shaun Stevenson now is very unlikely to get an opportunity,” Wilson predicted.
“Leicester Fainga’anuku, who had a remarkable season in Super Rugby, when does he get the opportunity to overtake Emoni Narawa? Who played one Test match and was very, very good.
“You can’t fit everybody in.”