Reporting from Tokyo: All Blacks head coach Steven Hansen has thrown Jordie Barrett in at the deep end and he didn’t give him much warning either – at least not how the younger Barrett brother tells it.
Barrett was told just hours before the official team announcement that he would starting a match for the All Blacks in the unfamiliar first five-eighths position.
“I found out I was playing 10 this morning.
“I’ve got bounced in and out of positions at training a little, not knowing I was going to play 10. But I do feel well prepared. I think the beauty about the 10 day (break) before this (and the Canada) game has been the time to read up and understand our structures and gameplans.”
Hansen delivered the news in typically blunt fashion by all accounts.
“It was pretty brief. He asked me if I was happy and comfortable to play and it was a pretty short ‘yes’ – and a smile – to answer.”
“I’ve played 10 a few times covering for the Canes (Hurricanes) this year and in previous years before that. I also played at 10 for Uni.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 4, 2019
Alongside brothers Beauden and Scott they became the first trio of brothers from New Zealand to start a World Cup game. (Jordie) Barrett made his test debut in 2017 in a 78-0 demolition of Samoa at Eden Park, but he will have to make adjustments to play in the ten jersey.
“I guess there’s a few but, within our gameplan, the 15 often performs a 10 role in our phase play. So it’s more just set-piece and little things, timings I’ll have to equip myself with over the next 48 hours so I can perform them on Sunday.”
“It’s a pretty special jersey – a lot of great players have gone before me and the current players here. It’s one I’m very grateful for and I’ll treasure it.”
He isn’t the only one having to make adjustments. Scrumhalf Aaron Smith has to learn what his new halfback partner likes.
“Today, I’ve been learning where he likes the ball, boring half-back stuff, and making sure the team gives him exactly what he wants.
“Definitely he’s got a higher hit box than Richie (Mo’unga). I’m fully confident in his abilities to go out and perform and I actually can’t wait to see him go. It’s going to be awesome.”
The 21-year-old has seven siblings and three professional rugby playing brothers; Beauden, Kane, and Scott. Hansen clearly has plenty of faith in the youngest of the rugby playing Barretts.
“One, he has played there before at a lower level. Two, he has got the skills set, we believe, to be able to run the game. And he has the confidence and skills to be able to execute as well as run it. We’re reasonably confident he will be fine.
“He has plenty of swagger. He’s not short of it. I don’t think you can mistake swagger or confidence with arrogance. He’s not an arrogant boy. He’s a humble kid. He will be looking forward to it. He will get out there and boss the team.”
Shag has also picked a scrumhalf as flyhalf back up – TJ Perenara.
“He’s the standby 10. He won’t play half-back in this game. Brad Weber will cover.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now